At various times in history and for 1100 years, Xian was the capital of the Chinese empire vying with Rome as the world’s greatest city. As the starting point for the trade caravans of the Silk Road are many historical sites. The most famous is the excavations of the life-sized Terracotta Army and the bronze horses and chariots found near the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang's tomb. Other attractions are the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Shaanxi History Museum, and the Old City Wall.
There is little doubt the unearthing in 1974 of the life-size Terracotta Warriors has paved the way to Xian becoming a “must see” city on a China experience. But while the impressively preserved sculptured figures of soldiers and horses are a magnet, there is much more to visiting this thriving tourist centre, enough to raise a few eyebrows and impress guests.
As Xian is the starting point for a trip along the famous Silk Route - which cuts a meandering fascinating path through China’s heart to the arid west – its history provides an intriguing look into the country’s past.
The fact that it is one of world’s most ancient capitals and covers a period of 1183 years in 11 dynasties and under the rule of 73 emperors speaks volumes, in the same breath as Rome and Constantinople.
For shoppers, Xian is among the best places in China for traditional art and craft such is the diverse range of products. Of course, the purchase Terracotta Warrior replicas is almost mandatory, so too jade carvings, lacquer-ware, cloisonné and inlaid screens.
Food for thought is the choice of traditional meals – steamed dumplings and pancakes and Mongolian-style hot pots particularly popular.