Linda from Linda Living in China shares what she loved about visiting Xi’an. She captures the reaction that I had to the Terracotta Warriors, describes 镜糕, and the overall feeling Xi’an musters up as a historical and multicultural city, at least for China.
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I moved to China in late 2012 and lived in Guangzhou for six months to complete an internship in online marketing. Now, I am back but live in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province.
During my time in Guangzhou I was fortunate to spend a lot of time traveling around China. I traveled many destinations such as Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Guilin and Yangshuo and many others but nothing compared to Xi’an. This old Chinese capital is really different to the rest of China that I have seen and I would love to go back.
Living in Guangzhou during the fall and winter months is very comfortable due to mild temperatures but when traveling to Xi’an in early April, the climate got to me. It was much colder to a point that we had to wear winter jackets and on top of everything, it was significantly less humid, almost zero humidity, compared to Guangdong. That is why I actually got sick for a day in Xi’an.
The Terracotta Warriors
The greatest reason why I traveled to Xi’an was, of course, to see the famous Terracotta Warriors. On my second day in the city, I decided to take a taxi and go to the museum and exhibition where all the warrior figures are displayed. I had seen many photos and heard lots of stories about this cultural sight before and my expectations were high.
I remember driving a little outside of the city to where the warriors are located. The area is a combination of exhibition halls and museums. I really enjoyed the atmosphere. When entering the main hall where all the excavated terracotta statues were displayed, I checked a point on my bucket list in my mind. Indeed, it was great to see all those figurines, each of which has a different facial structure. However, I imagined it to be much more special. It was indeed a great sight to visit but since I heard so much about it before hand, I expected it even greater than it might be. This might also have to do with the mass of tourists running around.
Food, food and more food
Here is why I love Xi’an: even though I only spent 4 days in this beautiful city, I totally absorbed its charm. I think the most memorable thing from my trip to Xi’an was the delicious food. Especially roaming through the popular Muslim Quarter, you can sample all sorts of local snacks and dishes for very little money. My favorite snack was a little sweet rice cake on a stick with jelly on one side. I’m not sure about the name of this snack but I haven’t seen it anywhere other than Xi’an when traveling around China.
Unlike in the southern part of China, where people usually eat more rice, northern China is famous for its variety of noodles and Xi’an seems to be the noodle capital. I ate so many different types of noodles like never before in my life. Especially, the combination between Chinese and Arabic foods was what astonished me most.
Middle Eastern Influence
Muslim Street has a long history. In the old days, foreign diplomatic envoys and merchants lived here then they married and had children, so gradually the population increased. Today, most of the inhabitants here are the descendants of those immigrants.
I remember my Chinese teacher, who is from Xi’an, telling me about one of his classmates from university who was one of Xi’an’s Muslim inhabitants. They both studied German in Beijing and later went to Germany for a semester abroad. Germany has a lot of Turkish people who immigrated over time and formed one of the most significant immigrant groups in Germany. One day, my teacher’s Muslim classmate got on the bus but was unable to talk to the bus driver in German, since his language skills were not as good yet and the bus driver was a foreigner, a Turkish man. The Chinese Muslim then, for some reason, talked in his own Muslim local dialect and the Turkish bus driver was able to understand it and communicate with him! To me that sounded so incredible and shows how we are really all connected through history!
In a Nutshell
Besides the Muslim Quarter and the Terracotta Warriors, I also explored other major sights of the city such as the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, the City Wall, both the Drum and the Bell Tower, Ban Po Museum and the Great Mosque.
Xi’an is really unique to other Chinese cities and a must-see for any China lover or expat! Plan at least three or four days to explore the city and keep in mind that winters are cold and not humid!
About the Guest Blogger:
Linda is a German/American girl in her 20’s who has been studying Chinese since 2010 and moved to Guangzhou in 2012 to complete a six-month internship. After completing her Bachelor’s in San Diego, she moved back to China, now living in Changsha, Hunan Province. She is dating a Korean she met while studying in the United States. Among the topics she loves writing about most is everything China-related, Korea, studying Asian languages, dating a Korean/AMWF and travel. You can find her on Facebook and follow her blog!