12 Experiences You’ll Love in Xi’an

Shuyuanmen Pedestrian St, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Beilin Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
Xian’s art district is called Shuyuanmen, 书院门, and there are some local artists here that sell paper cut art. Paper cutting began as a major art form in Xi’an around the seventh century, which was the city’s heyday. People in China place cut paper on their windows and doors to celebrate various auspicious events. For a wedding, red paper cuttings are traditional and are required as decorations for the service. A big red paper character, 喜喜, (double happiness) is crazy-popular for newlyweds. The little stands on the street in Shuyuanmen are probably selling mass-produced paper cut art, so be sure to haggle. Don’t pay a lot unless you see the master at work.
The story of the Emperor Qin reads something like Game of Thrones, with hostages, feuding brothers, wars, and the ultimate unification and creation of what we know as China today. Wanting to protect himself in the afterlife, Emperor Qin created an army of 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses made of terra-cotta. The first lineup of soldiers were said to be the “Dare to Die” soldiers as they were quick and sharp like a knife. They wore less armor than the rest of the warriors. This is one of the most massive archaeological finds on the planet and is found an hour outside of Xi’an China. Restoring the warriors was like putting together a complex puzzle— it’s really amazing to see how meticulously everything was recreated.
80 Nanyuanmen, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Beilin Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
You can’t talk about Xi’an without talking about biangbiang noodles, a unique Shaanxi food. The character for biang is one of the most complex among noodles, and is achieved by kneading the dough 58 strokes. With all the hype about the giant character, I was expecting the noodles to be a bit of a let-down—oh, was I wonderfully wrong! The noodles are huge, practically long lasagna sheets. The sauce reminded us of a kind of thick minestrone soup: tomato, flakes of slow-cooked lamb, and fresh herbs. It’s such a cheap, hearty, and delicious meal—I would eat this every day if I lived in Xi’an.
66 Defu Alley, DeFu Xiang, Beilin Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
Defu Lane is peppered with eateries and bars, but aside from being a good option to enjoy Xi’an’s nightlife, it’s also home to Fubaoge, a five-story traditional Chinese teahouse. Rest your feet after a long day of exploring and sip hot cups of Chinese tea like Longjing and chrysanthemum. Fubaoge’s crosstalk comedy shows are also popular with the crowds.
Huajue Alley, Bei Yuan Men Xiao Chi Yi Tiao Jie, Lianhu Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China, 710001
Located in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an, China is the Great Mosque, the country’s oldest and most renowned mosque. The mosque dates back to 742 AD. From all outward appearances, it looks like a Chinese temple and not a mosque; pagodas have replaced minarets. Look closely though and you will see the Arabic lettering that tells you that this is an Islamic mosque through and through. If you happen to be visiting in the afternoon, you might even catch the call to prayer. The start of the Muslim Quarter begins at Beiyuanmen Islamic Street, which is located just around the corner from Xi’an’s Drum Tower. The mosque itself is tucked inside a neighborhood street and while there are signs that point you in the right direction, the signs can be hard to spot so you will likely have to ask for help. If you decide to visit the mosque, remember to dress appropriately before you go and if you’re a woman, make sure you bring along a scarf to cover your head. Only about 2% of China’s population is Muslim so it is rare to see a mosque. The Hui people are the predominant race of Muslims in China and their lifestyle is very different from that of the dominant Han race. If you have never had a taste of Chinese Islamic life, spend some time visiting the mosque and walking Beiyuanmen Islam Street. Try sampling some of the Chinese Islamic food specialties.
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