Thursday, March 27, 2008

Xi'an trip: Monuments, Muslims, and Museums

Xi'an boasts an attractive travel scene in many ways beyond the Terracotta Warriors, the city's main attraction. Despite our short stay, we utilized our time eating savory Xinjiang food and searching out the rich history embedded within, and without, the ancient city walls.

The Bell Tower

The area between the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower contains an exciting plaza where people of all walks of life and ages gather together to fly Chinese kites in the colored lights, or just chat with their friends.

Behind the Drum Tower holds a special Xi'an delight:

If you ever go to Xi'an, the Muslim quarter walking street (aka 'the Muslim Market') is an absolute must see. It is well known for its delicious snacks dripping in a hodgepodge of mystery sauces and seasonings. This combination of flavors is pure magic to me. Though my beloved Cajun seasoning makes my mouth tingle in utter satisfaction, the flavors found in these Uygur snacks make my taste buds jump around quicker than MC Hammer's piston-like legs, bouncing rapidly on stage at the Kingdome. This delicate balance of seasonings is truly a masterpiece that deserves more recognition (which was particularly delectable on the Xinjiang Nan bread and lamb kabobs). It was so good, in fact, that we rushed over to buy more yummies on our way to the train station to go home the next day.

Xi'an holds an amazing museum for anyone interested in Chinese history. Because Shaanxi province was the heart of Ancient China, they keep digging into unbelievable artifacts and stuffing them in this classy museum. This museum highlights several dynasties, and displays everything from 3000-year-old bronze ceremonial pots to 500-year-old Ming vases that European countries tried so hard to mimic. (In 2006, a Ming vase sold for $10 million USD!!!)

Xi'an was also the edge of the Silk Road, which connected China with Europe (and brought great cultural and technological exchange), the museum even displayed anciently imported goods, like unearthed Roman Empire coins and such! It is fascinating to think about the mixing of the world's 'greatest' cultures. The grotto below, also displayed at the museum, shows the early influence of South Asian Buddhism via the Silk Road.

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is within walking distance of the Shaanxi Museum, and like most places in Xi'an it's full of people (doesn't anybody work during the day?). We spent a long time here, not out of choice, but because we had nowhere else to go for a few hours, and we were tired of walking around aimlessly with all our stuff. I hear they have a killer water show at night- that would have been cool. What we loved about this place is that every other store was a small photography shop where people dress in ancient Chinese clothing and walk into the park for a memorable photo-op; we saw countless old Chinese men get a little too carried away in-costume, which is always good for a laugh. Hey man, you're not really the emperor.


Zugman said...

Haha, MC Hammer's piston legs at the Kingdome - where else on the internet could I find such a masterful metaphor?

Ie Li said...

So I've been to China twice and never have visited Xi'an. I'm sad about that.