Xi’an, the ancient capital of China, has become one of the must-see destinations within China because of the discovery, in the 1970’s of a Terra Cotta Army of life-size soldiers which were buries near the tomb of the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. Archaeologicalists consider this wealth of ancient treasure to be the major discovery of the century and some have listed the terra cotta warriors as one of the "seven wonders of the world." Visitors to the city, however, are pleased to find that this tomb is not the only attraction here. Below is my list of the major places to see and things to do in this fascinating city.
1. Terra Cotta Warriors – Without doubt, this is the major attraction of the city. The soldiers may be viewed from an elevated walkway. More than 6,000 have been excavated already and there are more to be found. A guide is helpful to distinguish among the types and ranks of soldiers.
2. Bell Tower – Once the center of activity within the city, this tower stands tall, in a traffic circle and is still a focal point for visitors.
3. Small Wild Goose Pagoda – Out of the city center, this Buddhist pagoda has been damaged over the years but is still a place that locals come to relax. For the visitor, there are the ubiquitous shops and even a local crafts display.
4. City Walls – This ancient walled city has preserved its heritage well. The almost nine (9) miles of walls can still be walked.
5. Tang Dynasty Show – Once able to be seen only by the Emperor and his guests, this vividly colorful and spectacular show is a favorite evening activity for tourists to the city.
6. Drum Tower – Another beautiful feature of the old city, this colorful tower is now surrounded by shops, restaurants and park fountains.
7. Dumpling Lunch or Dinner – Dumplings are a common feature in China’s restaurants. However, nowhere else is the traditional seventeen or eighteen course dumpling meal done more beautifully than here in Xi’an. The dumplings are all carefully shaped to match the ingredient inside, for example, a shrimp dumpling is shaped like a shrimp, a pigeon dumpling looks like a pigeon.
8. Great Wild Goose Pagoda – Also outside the city wallls this Buddhist pagoda can be climbed for excellent views.
9. Muslim Quarter – Any walking tour of the city center should include a stroll down the narrow alleys of the Muslim Quarter. There are more Muslims here than in any other Chinese city, and the culture is well-established. Check out the shops and restaurants, and be sure to try some of the street food.
10. Shaanxi Provincial Museum – This excellent museum allows visitors a much closer look at the terra cotta warriors than at the tomb itself. There are also many other artifacts from the early days of Chinese unification since Xi’an was the home of the emperors of the time.