Things to do in Shaanxi

What is Shaanxi?

Shaanxi is a province in the Northwest part of China and is alternately also known as Shensi. The province is divided into 3 geographical regions, Northern, Central, and Southern Shaanxi. The majority of the population is Han Chinese and speaks Mandarin. Shaanxi is spread over an area of 200,000 square kilometers. It is a part of China that is populated by an astounding 37 million people while still being only the 16th populous province in China.

shaanxi
Shaanxi province

Shaanxi is also a major tourist hub for china with its rich history and modern cities. Let’s explore the province in more detail and check out the best things to do in Shaanxi.

Terracotta Army

Undoubtedly, one of the finest attractions and excavations the world has seen in the last 50 years is here to see for everyone. The Terracotta Army is based in Shaanxi and is also called the Terracotta Warriors is a life-sized collection of statues in battle readiness configuration. It’s highly unlikely that you have never seen or heard about this spectacle in your life. From history lessons to travel books, this monument has found a place everywhere. The first emperor of the Qin Dynasty built all these statues during his reign. The basic premise behind making these many statues was that he assumed that he would continue his reign in the afterlife, where he would rule another empire. So he built these statues as his army after his death into the next life.

Location and tourism

Located on the outskirts of Xi’an, you have the option to take a bus, tour, or car and travel for an hour before you reach the Museum of Qin. A guided tour is most recommended as it’s always better if someone can easily narrate the stories to you and also answer endless questions. The tour will cover several other sites as well and so will be good. Open from 8 am to 6 pm the entry will cost your 23USD or 150 RMB. It covers entry to all the vaults and museums in addition to a documentary on the site and its history.

Overall there are around 8,000 warriors, 600 horses, and 130 chariots excavated till now. However, many more are awaiting excavation.

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

Just 3 miles from the Xi’an city center, this ancient place is a Buddhist temple of worship. This pagoda was built for the study of Buddhist scriptures. This was built during the reign of the Tang Dynasty, which reigned from 618 to 907. It was also the same time during which Islam was introduced to China. The unique thing is it’s an example of Chinese architecture built without any cement but just layers of properly arranged bricks.

It’s an excellent work of engineering, and you must see it to believe it. While you are there, do spend some time appreciating its beauty and wait for the musical fountain show. The show used professional audio, superb lighting to create an immersive experience. Not only that, the show is the largest in Asia. Don’t miss it.

Xi’an City 

Xi’an was once upon a time the Terminus of the Silk route. Being at such an important location in the route, it was readily exposed to travelers from different cultures, countries, and regions, thus becoming the melting pot of culture. During its time of glory, it was inhabited and visited by artists, poets, warriors, royals, courtesans, and of course merchants. Though this glorious ceased to exist sometime in the 10th Century, there were lasting impressions left on the city, its people, and its surroundings, which are visible till this day.

Do remember this when you are in Xi’an as you are walking through and experiencing a real-life museum. While you are in the city, you can enjoy a couple of sights like the Xi’an City Wall, which is stated to be the most intact wall that has survived in China. China and Walls go hand in hand. Even this wall one of its most important defense systems and fortified key areas against any aggression. It’s advisable to check it out on a bicycle ride at a leisurely pace because it’s very long.

Huaqing Palace – Hot water Springs

You should not miss this place because the palace is like no other. Uniquely placed at the base of lush green mountains this place stands out even today with its unique beauty and superb architecture. This was a place that hosted the Chinese dynastic rulers. However, today it is well-known for its hot springs. It is claimed that hot springs have existed here for the last 6,000 years and even the rulers had taken advantage of them, while the royal garden architecture is 3,000 years old. You can take a walk around a few of the several gardens.

Hot springs

The place boasts of 4 hot water springs, with the water being not just refreshing for baths, but also has medicinal value in helping alleviate any pain. The pools are large and can easily accommodate around 300-400 people at a time. Strolling around you will come across the Nine Dragons lake which hosts a grand musical performance night themed around the Song of the Everlasting Sorrow. The performance will include more than 250 artists, dancers, and performers, an underwater stage, and a grand 700-meter screen. You have to see this spectacle.

Great Mosque of Xi’an

True to its name, this is the largest mosque in China and is located in the center of Xi’an city. With its name comes the tags of the UNESCO Islamic heritage list and the most important Islamic worship place in China. It’s open from 8 am to 7 pm and is the only mosque where non-Muslims can visit, barring the entry into the main prayer hall. The architecture is a beautiful combination of Chinese and Islamic art. Work on the mosque began in 742 AD and additions were still being made until 1911. The Islamic Arabian merchants following the silk route landed in Xi’an and introduced Islam to the region.

Over a due course of time, several Muslims immigrated and settled down in this region and married locals. This mosque was one of the first ones in the country after which several more were constructed. The Great Mosque stands in time and honor of the founders of Islam in China. Spread over a massive 6,000 square meters, it’s designed into 4 courtyards. Each courtyard has its unique appeal and design. This mosque marks an important event of the introduction of Islam in China during the Tang Dynasty when it was constructed. Exploring this site, you would find yourself going back 1300 years ago when it was first constructed.

Tomb of Emperor Jingdi

This is probably the most underrated site in Xi’an and is the burial place where Jingdi, the emperor of the Hang Dynasty was laid to rest (188 – 141 BC). The entire site location has been segregated into two distinct areas, the museum and the tomb’s excavation area. Since it’s not very touristy, you will be able to enjoy this place at a leisurely pace comfortably. You will find an extensive display of terracotta figurines including animals, servants, eunuchs, and female cavalry.

It is estimated that more than 50,000 of them were buried at the site. The other part is the tomb, where they have 21 pits in various stages of excavation. To demonstrate the excavation process, they have constructed glass floors on top of the sites so you can see the work in progress. With an overall 81 burial pits and so many artifacts, you will have a great view of the relics and an insight into the past thousands of years back. You will surely enjoy this place.

Muslim Quarter

Just like French and Latin Quarters that you would find across the world, the Muslim immigrants, travelers, and merchants brought with them a distinct Arabian and Islamic culture which was very unique then in this part of the world. Being the center point of the trading world and the starting point for the Silk Route, several students and merchants from Persia visited Xi’an for business and other trade-related activities. Over some time, they settled down in an area that is the present-day Muslim Street. Named Hui by the locals, gradually the community grew over centuries and generations. Today the community people number around 60,000. Today the Muslims in Xi’an are the direct descendants of the traveling Hui community and follow their ethnic culture.

The Muslim Quarter is a unique melting point of culture with the local Muslims with their Arabic culture, the local Chinese community and the tourists from different countries and regions converge. Though a famous tourist spot, it’s also a snacking corner for most residents. So you will find this place alive with activity every day. You must try some famous dishes here like the Roujiamo which is a freshly baked bun with lamb or beef stuffing, Xi’an dumplings, a large variety of soups with different meats, Yangrou Paomo which is a type of bread soaked in fresh and spicy lamb soup. You can also try the cold noodles that Xi’an is so famous for. Made from rice or flour, there are literally dozens of shops selling it.

Food shops

Food and bars cannot be too far away and you will find it easily if you ask around a bit. It’s called the heart of Xi’an nightlife. Though not buzzing and loud, it will still find its share of customers and visitors sipping beer. What makes this place so much fun and popular with tourists is the unending lines of shops, stalls, and restaurants and the frenzy especially during meal times. Do give some dishes a try or at least sample them out. Let us warn you that this is not a place for vegetarians as there is a lot of meat on display and is also being cooked and served openly everywhere. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Hua Shan

You must have surely seen the pictures of tourists on a flat mountain face walking over tiny planks trying to find their balance while being scared of the fall below. Yes, this is the place you have all seen. It’s Hua Shan and is located about two hour’s drive from Xi’an. The place is famous for its natural steep and narrow paths, plank walks, stunning views, high and almost vertical mountain faces. It also has several Taoist temples where Taoism and its rituals were practiced by emperors of dynasties. There are 5 peaks and each has its own charm and importance.

You can enjoy the sunrise on the East Peak, the highest altitude on South Peak, the West peak is very elegant, etc. The most popular activity is hiking and it’s no wonder that it is referred to as the most dangerous hike in the world. You can ascend the hike on foot experiencing its danger first hand and also enjoying its most scenic spots. This is scary and do not attempt if you suffer from acrophobia. Visitors can descend using the cable car system. Give yourself enough time to enjoy this one-of-a-kind activity.

Summary

Shaanxi is a wonderful place in China where you can enjoy one of the most historical cities, different cultures, and different cuisines all in one place. There are many tourist attractions of every type. They can be archeological, historical, religious, adventure, meditative, and more. There are so many that it would be impossible to fit all of them here in one article. However, we have tried to give you the best idea and important information when it comes to the Shaanxi region.

We would recommend you undertake a detailed study about all the wonders here. Natural and manmade, cultural and historical, modern and ancient to understand what you like and what you don’t. This will help you finalize the best ones and plan your trip. We wish you a happy journey and a lot of fun during your travels.

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