Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where in the World is Xi'an and how do you pronounce it?

My baby girl is from the Shaanxi provence, the city of Xi'an (may also be spelled Sian). Pronounced like shee-an, Xi'an is in the middle of the country found with in the Yellow River Basin - she is a midwestern gal! Here is a map to show you where it is. For the provence look in the middle, just above the light green one. For the city, look for Beijing and head in a diagonal southwest direction. The city has a dot with a circle around it.

Xi'an is more than 3,000 years old and was known as Chang'an in ancient times. For 1,000 years, the city was the capital for 13 dynasties, and a total of 73 emperors ruled here. Xi'an is the undisputed root of Chinese civilization having served as the capital city for the Zhou, Qin, Han, and Tang dynasties. With so much history within the ground the city lies upon, it is no wonder that there are so many historical ruins, museums and cultural relics to be found here. It was already influencing the world outside of the Great Wall of China as the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Here traders from far and wide brought goods and ideas for sale and took goods and ideas back with them to their native countries. In present day Xi'an not much of its former glory remains within the city confines, due to the constant warfare and political changes that swept China particularly throughout the 20th Century. Today the city has a pleasant cosmopolitan flair to it and it is worth visiting for the famed Terracotta Warriors alone. It has often been said that, "if you have not been to Xi'an, you have not been to China!"
I had always said that I didn't care where Audrey was from, but secretly hoped that she would be from were the terra cotta warriors were so I could see them - and she is! In March 1974, a group of peasants digging a well in drought-parched Shaanxi province in northwest China unearthed fragments of a clay figure—the first evidence of what would turn out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times. Near the unexcavated tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi—who had proclaimed himself first emperor of China in 221 B.C.—lay an extraordinary underground treasure: an entire army of life-size terra cotta soldiers and horses, interred for more than 2,000 years. The site is found on dry, scrubby land planted in persimmon and pomegranate—bitterly cold in winter and scorching hot in summer—marked by dun-colored hills pocked with caves. Over the past 35 years, archaeologists have located some 600 pits, a complex of underground vaults as yet largely unexcavated, across a 22-square-mile area. The site is a current dig and archeologists are finding new and interesting things everyday. It is rumored that there is a tomb complex that resembles the earth and had rivers of mercury running through the ground and lights in the ceiling to resemble the sky. Here are some images of the warriors!


There are also other historical things to see in Xi'an!
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Originally built in 652 during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it functioned to collect Buddhist materials that were taken from India by the hierarch Xuanzang. According to ancient stories of Buddhists, there were two branches, for one of which eating meat was not a taboo. One day, they couldn't find meat to buy. Upon seeing a group of big wild geese flying by, a monk said to himself: 'Today we have no meat. I hope the merciful Bodhisattva will give us some.' At that very moment, the leading wild goose broke its wings and fell to the ground. All the monks were startled and believed that Bodhisattva showed his spirit to order them to be more pious. They established a pagoda where the wild goose fell and stopped eating meat. Hence it got the name 'Big Wild Goose Pagoda'.

The Great Mosque
The Great Mosque in Xian is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China. According to historical records engraved on a stone tablet inside, this mosque was built in 742 during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). This was a result of Islam being introduced into Northwest China by Arab merchants and travelers from Persia and Afghanistan during the mid-7th century when some of them settled down in China and married women of Han Nationality.

The area is also known for its dumplings...mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......
Forest of Stone Steles
Once the site of the Temple of Confucius during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), the Forest of Stone Steles Museum is situated on Sanxue Street, near the south gate of Xian City Wall. It was initially established in 1087A.D.. when some precious stone steles were moved here for safe keeping, including the 'Classic on Filial Piety' written by Emperor Xuanzong in 745A.D. and 'the Kaicheng Stone Steles' carved in 837A.D.. All together, there are 3,000 steles and the museum is divided into seven exhibitions halls, which mainly display the works of calligraphy, painting and historical records.

Muslem Street
Just as its name implies, Muslem Street is the hub of the Moslem community in Xian City, Shaanxi Province. This street is paved with dark colored stone with green trees providing heavy shade during summer; the buildings on both sides of the street are modeled on the styles of both the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasties (1644-1911). The main goods of these stores are authentic hand-making Moslem food which tastes very good. While still there are small stores selling the special local products of Shaanxi Province and yet others provide you with exquisite souvenirs. Can you say "shopping"?

So much to do and see - so much history. This culture is the heritage of my daughter and I hope to be able to see as much and document as much of it as I can for her. While we may NOT be hiking to the top of Mt. Huashan, we hope to do as many things as possible to learn as much as we can about where she comes from so that we can give her a connection to this area. I can't wait to explore this fascinating city with her! There is alot of information about Xi'an on the web if you want to learn more!

1 comment:

  1. You'll love Xi'an! Beautiful! And, don't be afraid to try the food at the Muslim market! We found some amazingly yummy stuff and didn't get sick! Also, that last photo in your post is from a place called Yangshou. It is 2 hours by bus from Guilin and is GORGEOUS! Very little pollution and quiet! We spent two weeks there in 2010 after our time in Xi'an. It was very refreshing!