The Bell Tower "Zhong Lou" is at the center of Xi'an. The major north-south and east-west roads cross here. The wooden tower is 36 meters high and stands on a solid stone base. The Bell Tower was built in 1582. The Bell Tower can be visited, it is the landmark of Xi'an.
The "Gu Lou" Drum Tower looks very much like the nearby Bell Tower. The Xi'an "Drum Tower" is the dominant building on a square that is very lively in the evening. The "Gu Lou" was built around 1370, the Drum Tower is 33 m high and brightly illuminated at night.
The Great Mosque Qing Zhen Dasi was built in the Tang Dynasty, when Xi'an was the starting point of the famous "Silk Road" and trade with Muslim merchants flourished. The mosque looks like a typical Chinese temple of the Ming period, but turned around 90 degrees, orientated to the east (Mecca).
Xi'an built a new city wall in the 14th century, which enclosed a rectangle of about 4.4 x 2.7 km. It is one of the few preserved city walls in China, you can circle the inner city completely. The southern and western section of the 14 km lang City Wall is the most beautiful. On the picture you can see the colourful South Gate "Nan Men".
The "Da Yan Ta" Giant Wild Goose Pagoda was built in 652 and is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in China. Here the first Buddhist scriptures of "Xuanzang" were translated. "Xuanzang" had collected the writings on his long journey through India. His Journey to the west "xiyouji", became world famous.
The 43 m high "Xiao Yan Ta" Small Wild Goose Pagoda was built in 684 by Tang Emperor "Gaozong", who ruled between 649-683 in Changan (today Xi'an). Originally, the pagoda had 15 stories, but an earthquake destroyed 2 floors.
The first emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Qin Shihuangdi, had this vast army of terracotta soldiers built in 210 BC to guard his grave. The grave is located under a large mound of earth and has been known for a long time. In 1974 a farmer discovered the first figures of the Bing Ma Yong, as the "Terracotta Army" is called in Chinese while digging for a well. The life-size figures stand in many rows around the imperial tomb. The soldiers' bodies are repeated but the heads are individually designed. The soldiers were painted, but the paint falls off immediately when the figures are excavated.
The excavations have not yet been completed and it is believed that other armies lie in the earth around the imperial tomb of the first emperor. There are several excavation halls on the Terracotta Army site. The soldiers were partly put together from the broken pieces and are back in rank and file in the earth of Xi'an. Rare or particularly beautiful figures are in glass showcases, such as a float and horse figures. There are also warriors whose former color has been reconstructed. An interesting film about the creation of the "Terracotta Army" is shown in the exhibition center. The "Terracotta Army" is one of the most important sights in China.
The pyramid-shaped imperial tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi is still untouched. China is waiting until it has developed better ways to preserve the excavated pieces. It is believed that the emperor had his empire recreated under the mound, with buildings made of wood and rivers made of mercury. The emperor Qin Shi Hunagdi was the first emperor of China, who could conquer all other parts of the country with his army and thus united the country. The terracotta army to the west of the burial mound guards his huge mausoleum. Qin Shi Hunagdi deceased in 206 BC.
Welcome to Xi'an
Today's Xi'an is still at the place where Changan used to be. Changan was the legendary capital of the first Chinese emperor "Qing Shi Huangdi". The first emeror ordered to built the "Terracotta Army" to protect his tomb. The square-shaped city of Changan served as a model for later Chinese and Japanese capitals. Nara, Kyoto and Beijing were built according to the same urban principles. The historc city centre of Xi'an is much smaller the the ancient Changan.
Most famous sights of Xi'an are the Terracotta Army, the Bell Tower and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
The silk road
Changan was the Chinese capital for many centuries, the name of the first dynasty Qin, also leads to the name China. Changan was the starting point of the Silk Road, which stretched across Central Asia to Europe. As a result, many Muslim traders came to the city. There is still a "Muslim Quarter" with a mosque.
What does the name mean?
The name of Xi'an means "Western Peace". Xi = west, An = peace
Changan means "Long Peace". Chang = long, An = peace