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Xi’an:Ancient Hot Pot

Daniel Newman 2016-05-21 17:18

Military Formation 

The Terracotta Warriors in Qin Dynasty were buried in a location about an hour’s drive from modern day Xi’an, in an area believed to have particularly good Feng Shui, with a mountain range rich in gold and jade behind, and in front a fortuitous river. It was believed this would ensure a successful transition for the First Emperor of Qin into the next world, with the warriors at hand to protect him. 

Laid out in battle formation with archers at the front and generals ruling over them from a safe distance, Qin military tactics set a precedent that would continue well into the modern era, when rank and salary were determined by how many heads you chopped off and brought back from the battlefield. 


Of course, what the builders of the First Emperor’s tomb never envisioned was that in 1974 these supernatural warriors would be discovered by seven farmers drilling a well. The First Emperor never intended for them to be seen by human eyes after his death, however, he has yet to be uncovered himself until we have the technology to fully preserve the quicksilver rivers and miniature palaces that are said to be down there with him. 

Indian Imports 

Xi’an was also a starting point of the Silk Road. But silk was far from the only thing that travelled along its paths. Buddhism, for example, was one of many ideas that arrived along the Silk Road, and Xi’an boasts two Wild Goose Pagodas built in the Tang Dynasty to store the Buddhist scriptures brought by Chinese monks to China. 


The larger of these two Wild Goose Pagodas is particularly famous because the writings of the monk for whom it was built, Xuanzang, were the inspiration for China’s best-loved adventure novel, Journey To The West. Spicing up the original historical accounts, this novel sees the monk being accompanied to India by a disobedient Monkey King and a greedy talking pig. 

These legendary characters can also be seen as having been inspired by Indian tradition, with the Monkey King having much in common with the simian Hindu god, Hanuman. 

The Shaanxi Museum 


Having played host to so many ancient dynasties, it’s no wonder that the Shaanxi Museum in Xi'an boasts one of the world's greatest ancient Chinese art collections, with more than 370,000 pieces. From the enormous rhinoceros that confronts you in the museum's entrance hall (which was commissioned for the country's one and only female Emperor) to the dramatic Buddhist statues from the Zhongshan Grottoes (with which the collection climaxes), this is a veritable treasure trove regardless of your preferences. One of the most noteworthy pieces include the fossils of Lantian Man (who probably used fire to cook well over a million years ago!). The Shaanxi Museum also has a considerable collection of Terracotta Warriors, and often hosts more recent discoveries from the tomb of the First Emperor. 

The City Wall 

The design of Xi'an has been altered many times, but it has always been dominated by huge city walls. During the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220AD) its 25km long irregular contours stood strong for more than two hundred years until it was destroyed, before they were rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). 


Emperor Wen of Sui Dynasty (581-618AD) moved his capital to Xi'an and he commissioned the great city planner Yuwen Kai to design him a new city. The location he assigned was dominated by three great ridges, and Yuwen Kai recognised that they resembled the ancient Chinese trigram for heaven and turned these seeming obstacle into the defining feature of his design, building a city based on the principals of the "Book Of Changes". Although most of Yuwen Kai's awe-inspiring city has since disappeared, there are still glimpses of it to be seen in Xi'an today. In Japan's Nara and Kyoto, one can see great ancient cities whose structure was inspired by Yuwen Kai's ingenious design. 

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