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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Xi'an

Xi'an is situated in central China, between the Weihe river in the north and the Qinling Mountains in the south.

The city lies on a major rail route which runs from Lianyungang on the Yellow Sea via Ürümqi in the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang and on to Kazakhstan.

Pagoda of the Great Wild Goose

In company with that of the Small Wild Goose, the Pagoda of the Great Wild Goose is the second religious building to survive from the Tang period (618-907). It formed part of the Temple of Great Mercy and Goodness (Ci'en Si), built by Prince Li Zhi in the first half of the 7th C in honor of his mother. Originally the complex was much larger than the present-day one dating from the 16th C, and it offered accommodation to 300 monks. Three Buddha figures can be seen in the main hall.
The Gaozong Emperor Li Zhi built the Pagoda in 652 in order to house more than 650 Buddhist writings which the monk Xuanzang had brought from India and later partially translated. Originally there were only five stories, but five more were added between 701 and 704. Later three stories were destroyed during hostile attacks, so today the pagoda has only seven floors and is 64m/210ft tall. It is constructed in rectangular sections which taper towards the top. Two stone plaques are let into the wall on either side of the entrance; these bear inscriptions by the Tang Emperors Taizong and Gaozong.

Historical Museum of Shaanxi Province

This modern museum to the northwest of the Pagoda of the Great Wild Goose is China's most important archaeological museum. It measures 44,000sq.m/474,000sq.ft in area and consists of several buildings containing a large number of rooms in which more than 3000 exhibits, displayed in seven chronologically arranged sections, illustrate the origins, achievements and flourishing of Chinese culture from prehistory to the Qing period (1368-1911). On display are bronze vessels from the Shang and Zhou period (16th-3rd C BC), porcelain from the Tang and Song era (7th-13th C), gold and silver jewelry from the Tang period (618-907), a rich collection of frescos from the tombs of Tang rulers which depict scenes from court life, and musical instruments. Evidence of trade with the west is provided in the shape of gold dishes, brooches and silver-plate from the Sassanid (Persian, AD 211-651) empire.

Pagoda of the Small Wild Goose

Pagoda of the Small Wild Goose in Xian.
The Pagoda of the Small Wild Goose, in the south of the city near the local CITS travel bureau, is square in plan, stands 43m/140ft high and was built in 684 in honor of the Tang Emperor Gaozong. Two of the fifteen original stories have collapsed as a result of frequent earthquakes.

Town Walls from Ming Period

The town walls were built between 1368 and 1398. After extensive restorations they now encircle the inner town together with the moat, measuring 14km/9mi in circumference. Averaging 12m/40ft in height and 18m/60ft wide at the base, the wall is furnished with four gates and a large number of watch-towers and bastions.

Mosque

The Mosque covers an area of 12,000sq.m/130,000sq.ft and lies about 300m/900ft to the northwest of Drum Tower, in a district inhabited mainly by the Moslem Hui minority. There is said to have been a mosque here back in the Tang period (618-907).
The buildings comprises five courtyards with various buildings in traditional Chinese style but with Islamic decorative patterns. Built during the Ming period (1368-1644) the mosque still has a number of its original stelae. The prayer-hall in the main building will hold up to 1000 worshippers.

Celebration Park

Celebration Park covers 50ha/125acres around a small lake in the east of the city. The modern buildings are modeled on the Tang period style (618-907), in memory of the magnificent residence which stood here 1300 years ago. In 714, when Li Longji, was crowned emperor, he had the residence converted into an imperial palace. Its name is thought to commemorate his accession to the throne.

Bell Tower

The Bell Tower in the town center stands 36m/118ft high. It was originally built in 1384 on a site a little further west, and rebuilt here in 1582.
Visitors can climb up inside as far as the penultimate floor from where they can enjoy a beautiful view of the city.

Temple of Daxingshan Si

The Temple of Daxingshan Si, to the south of the Pagoda of the Small Wild Goose, dates back to the 3rd C, but the present buildings are from the Ming and Qing period (1368-1911) and were restored in 1956. It was once an important Buddhist center, and Indians also lived here.

Drum Tower

Further west from the Bell Tower stands the Drum Tower. It dates from 1370, is 33m/108ft high and stands on a rectangular brick base spanning a road so that the drum tower gives the appearance of a town gate.

Temple of the Town God

On Xi Dajie Street stands the Temple of the Town God (Chenghuang Miao), built in 1433. The main hall dates from 1723.

Forest of Stelae

In the former Confucius Temple east of the southern town gate of the old town is China's most important collection of stone tablets. This so-called ''Forest of Stelae'' consist of 3200 stone tablets of which 1700 are exhibited. The oldest date back about 2000 years. The main and largest part of the collection is made up of 114 tablets on which the Confucian canon was engraved in the year 837. Particularly well-known is the ''Nestorian Stela'', dating from 781. It documents the existence of a Christian community in the former Tang capital Chang'an.
In the side-halls, monumental stone animals and tomb bas-reliefs from the Han and Tang periods (206 BC-AD 907) as well as Buddhist sculptures can be seen.

Surroundings

Terracotta ArmyTerracotta Army

Mount Huashan

Mount Huashan, also known as Xi Yue (West Mountain), lies some 100km/60mi from Xi'an and dominates the east of Shaanxi province. It is one of the Five Holy Taoist Mountains. Steep and rocky paths wind their way up between its five peaks to the east, west, north and center. The highest point is Lotus Peak (Lianhua Feng) to the south, which is 2100m/6892ft. Mount Huashan has been famous since time immemorial. Along the paths which lead past precipitous rock faces and yawning chasms the scenery changes at every step and seems to cast a magic spell over all who pass.
To get to Mount Huashan take the train to Huayin. The ascent of the mountain begins 8km/5mi from there, in the Garden of the Jade Spring (Yuquan Yuan). The path winds through what are known as the Eighteen Bends, past some interesting rock formations and a stone gateway, and thence to the Gateway of Clouds (Yunmen), from where there is a magnificent view of the mountainous scenery. From here onwards the path gets steeper. Stone steps lead up to North Peak (Beifeng). The path which follows is dangerous and is only for those with a good head for heights. The climber will pass The Place Where the Ear Scrapes the Rock (Ca'er Ya) and the Ridge of the Blue Dragon, where the rock faces fall away precipitously.
Those who decide to climb the South Peak must scramble up using the footholds cut in the face of an extremely steep slope, holding tightly on to an iron chain for safety. One of the most difficult sections is the 100ft long gorge, which is so narrow that only one person at a time can squeeze through.

Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huangdi

The Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huangdi was constructed by the hands of some 700,000 men. The emperor ordered the construction of his mausoleum at the age of 13.

Temple of the Gateway to Dharma

The Famen Si temple complex - 10km/6mi north of the village of Fufeng, which itself is some 100km/60mi west of Xi'an - is famous for its pagoda, in which is kept one of Shakyamuni's finger bones. The bone was brought here on the instructions of the Tang Emperor Xianzong (806-821).
The thirteen-story brick pagoda, 28m/92ft high, was rebuilt in 1988. It towers up in front of the main hall of the monastery which houses a statue of the Buddha. To the sides stand a bell-tower and a drum tower. On the façade of the main hall can be seen an inscription dated 978.
Shakyamuni's finger bone, known to Buddhists as the ''Holy Bone'', and three copies of it (known as the ''Shadow Bones''), were discovered in April 1987 in an underground treasure chamber below the foundations of the previous pagoda from the year 1579. This palace, which had remained hidden for 1000 years, contained much valuable treasure from the Tang period (618-907), including numerous objects in gold, silver, semi-precious stones, jade or lacquer, many porcelain vessels and woven silks. In 1988 a museum was built here specially to house these finds.

Banpo Museum

This museum lies 4km/2.5mi east of Xi'an on a site where, in the 1950s, archaeologists unearthed a 6000 year-old village which had operated on a matriarchal structure. About 500 people would have lived in the village, which was surrounded by a ditch 6m/20ft wide and equally deep. The houses, all facing south, were square or round in plan and arranged around a large house 160sq.m/1720sq.ft in area. Corn and other supplies were kept in the store rooms. Adults would have been buried in graves outside the living area, while children were interred near the houses.
Visitors can see the remains of 45 houses, 2 stables, more than 200 cellars, 6 kilns and about 250 graves. Tools and equipment made of stone, terracotta and bone have also been found. The pottery items, which are attributed to the Yangshao culture, are frequently decorated with fishes and have marks scratched on them which are probably the forerunners of a form of writing.

Mount Lishan

The twin peaks of Mount Lishan, 1200m/3940ft high, lie 26km/16mi east of Xi'an.
Laojun Temple sits on top of the western peak. According to legend, it was here that the Tang Emperor Xuanzong swore everlasting devotion to his concubine.
A pavilion rises up out of thick grass on the slope approaching the Huaqing Hot Springs. It was at this spot that on December 12th 1936 Chiang Kai-shek was taken prisoner by two of his officers and forced to join with the Communists in the struggle against the Japanese invaders.

Huaqing Hot Springs

The Huaqing Hot Springs (Huaqing Chi) are to be found 26km/16mi east of Xi'an at the foot of Mount Lishan in a large park containing a number of public baths and some modern palaces built in the Tang style. The hot springs, rich in minerals and with a temperature of 43°C (109°F), were highly regarded more than 3000 years ago. The Tang Emperor Xuanzong often spent the winter here in the company of his favorite concubine Yang Guifei. Soon, the imperial baths were destroyed. In the 1980s, the foundations and bath basins were excavated, and the original buildings in the style of the Tang period were rebuilt on top.

Ruins of Efang Palace

The ruins of the Palace of Efang lie 15km/9.5mi west of the city. They are the remains of part of a complex of buildings constructed on the orders of the first emperor of the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC). Whenever the emperor defeated an enemy army, in the course of the unification of the empire, he would have a building erected here in the architectural style of the enemy country concerned. There are said to have been more than 270 such buildings; in 206 BC, however, an insurgent general reduced them all to ashes.
Today a few ruins are all that remain of the once magnificent imperial palace - a terrace of compressed clay 20m/66ft high and 31m/100ft round, and a platform, also of compressed clay, 6m/20ft tall and 5m/16ft deep. These were probably the foundations of two of the 270 palace buildings.
An archaeological find made in the 1970s proved very interesting to the experts. In the ruins of Palace No. 3 a row of wall-paintings were uncovered which depict a carriage and pair and soldiers on horseback. The tints of these 2000 year-old representations are incredibly fresh and full of life.

Mausoleum of Jing Di

In 1990, when constructing the road from Xi'an to the new airport, the builders stumbled upon the tomb of Jing Di (reigned 157-141 BC), the fifth ruler of the Han dynasty. It lies on a burial site of 9.6ha/24acres where more than 800 more graves were traced. Some 70,000 workers were forced to labor for 37 years to build the mausoleum.
Investigations indicate that the mausoleum complex contains 24 graves in all. Eight of these have been unearthed and they contain 700 naked terracotta figures. These warrior figures, each about 60cm/2ft tall, have different facial expressions. They originally had moveable wooden arms which have rotted away and were dressed in silk uniforms. They are equipped with bronze weapons, and large stores of grain as well as various items in miniature have also been found, for example herds, corn-measures, arrowheads and other items for military and civilian use. It is not possible to visit the excavations, but some items are exhibited in the Historical Museum.

Tang Tombx

80km/50mi northwest of Xi'an, near the town of Qianxian, will be found the tombs of nineteen Tang emperors.

Tang Tombs - Qianling Tomb

The Qianling Tomb dates from the heyday of the Tang dynasty and contains the mortal remains of the third Tang Emperor Gaozong (reigned 649-683) and of his Empress Wu Zetian. The seventeen further tombs are those of relatives and high dignitaries, including Prince Zhanghuai and Princess Yongtai. The road to the tombs is lined with statues of men and animals.

Tang Tombs - Zhaoling Tomb

To the northeast of the town of Liquan lies the Zhaoling Tomb, built in the years 636 to 649 for Emperor Taizong and covering an area of 10,000ha/25,000acres. The burial site includes 167 tombs of relatives, high officials and generals.
The finds made here - colored clay figures, paintings and stone engravings - are in the Zhaoling Museum (9km/5.6mi to the southeast).

Tang Tombs - Tomb of Prince Zhanghuai

The tomb of Prince Zhanghuai (Tang Zhanghuai Taizi Mu), the second son of Emperor Gaozong, lies 3km/2mi southeast of the Qianling Tomb. It contains wall-paintings which give an insight into court life, such as that showing a game of polo. This tomb had been robbed and the archaeologists found only a few burial objects.

Tang Tombs - Tomb of Princess Yongtai

Close to the Zhanghuai Tomb lies the Tomb of Princess Yongtai (Yongtai Gongzhu Mu), the granddaughter of Emperor Gaozong. It is 87m/285ft long and is also decorated with wall-paintings. Burial objects found here included gold and silver jewelry and china; these are now on display in the Qianlin Museum.
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