People began to settle in the area around Xian already more than 8000 years ago. The city reached its highest point of development during the Tang Dynasty between 618 – 960 AD. At that time 2 million inhabitants were living there. Over the course of 11 dynasties with a total period of rule of 1180 years, Xian was the capital city of the Chinese Empire. There are 73 grave mounds in the area surrounding the city, some of which have never been opened. On the way from the airport to the city, you pass the Hanyang gravesite. Items found there on site, including hundreds of small terracotta figures up to 50 cm in height, can be visited in a modern museum located next to the grave mounds.
The city of 3 million is characterized by a 14 km long city wall which is almost completely preserved. In the center of the north-south axis, we find a 36 m high bell tower. The south gate with its enormous size is used even today for festive occasions, such as weddings. The tower also offers visitors the chance to view a section of the city from above.
In the evening hours, you can enjoy typical Chinese light shows or the “Grandmother-Grandfather Disco“, which is how young people refer to the rhythmic gymnastics done by older folks. The Chinese also love to take photos of themselves dressed in historical gowns.
The city's landmark is the great Big Goose Pagoda. The entire temple complex stands as a symbol to the monk Xuangzang, who translated and stored the Buddhist scriptures he brought back with him from a trip to India. The 64m high pagoda is from the year 652 and at one time had 10 stories. In addition to the pagoda, the temple complex includes a main and secondary hall and a bell and drum tower. In the halls are a series of Buddhist fine art items such as jade reliefs, stone sculptures and images of Buddha.
However, worldwide attention continues to focus on the Terracotta Warriors of the 1st Chinese Emperor, Qinshi Huangdi. The Terracotta Warriors were discovered by accident in 1974 30 km east of Xian at the foot of the Li mountain, directly adjacent to the Emperor’s grave mound which itself has never been opened. 7300 life size clay soldiers, archers, officers, horses and battle wagons remained underground for 2000 years. Around 1000 figures are now exposed, while the other figures were once again covered with soil to preserve their color until they can be prepared for the conservation process.
The entire complex, built by 700,000 forced laborers, demonstrates the power of the rulers who first united the Chinese empire, introduced a bureaucratic structure which still characterizes China today, and who also introduced a unified currency and system of writing. The Emperor, known for his legalistic discharge of duties, conducted the first book burning in history and persecuted alternative-thinking intellectuals who were buried alive. Mao – well aware of his own power - once said “Qinshi buried 460 learned men, I have buried 46,000.“
Next to this extraordinary complex, Xian is also home to a another series of graves that are worth seeing. These include the immense grave complex of the only Empress of China, Wu, and the thermal spa - popular already 3000 years ago – belonging to the Tang Emperor Xuanzong for his concubine Yang Yuhuan. The modern historical museum, the second largest in China, is also a must-see for any visit. Also a must-see are the unique cultural and acrobatic performances of present-day performers who are even known outside of China.