Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Wandering China Day 6: Entering Xi’An


Xi’An (西安) is capital of China’s Shaanxi province and the city was traditionally known as Chang’An before the last Han Chinese dynasty, the Ming (1368-1644). I have long known about Chang’An thanks to my love for the Romance of Three Kingdoms narrative so I am excited to be here. Xi-An is this year, host of the upcoming International Horticultural Expo 2011, one described by its official website as an ‘international gathering hosted by China after the Beijing 2008 Olympics and Expo 2010 Shanghai… an important opportunity to showcase green civilization and promote the nation’s image.’

Arriving in the evening at Xi’An’s Xianyang (咸阳) international airport a little later than scheduled and it was dark when I arrived. As mentioned in Day 1 of this series of posts – One of Four Great Ancient Capitals of China (中国四大古都), Xi-An is now an important cultural, industrial and educational centre of the central-northwest region, with facilities for China’s space exploration program. As one of the oldest cities in China dating back more than three millennia, the never-conquered-by-foreign-power city (the Japanese never made it that far inland) in central China Xi’an was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and home to China’s first emperor Qin Si Huang’s Terra-cotta Army. Checking out the World Heritage Site of the Terra-cotta Army will be a priority on this trip to see first hand the origins of the idea ‘the Son of Heaven’ (天子) and the logistics and organization required for work on such a scale; historical records by Sima Qian reveal that 700,00 workers were involved in building the Qin emperor’s mausoleum and this was way back two millennia ago. A detailed report will follow.

The locals here speak a Shaanxi dialect though the cab driver anecdotally shared that few do, as it simply ‘does not sound very pleasing to the ear’ – this was a first time I’ve heard a local prefer the sound of Mandarin as opposed to local vernacular . Housing here ranges up to 7,000 to 8,000 RMB per square foot, taking on average 15-30 years to finish paying for; expensive for most Chines yes, but substantially cheaper (about five times less) than Beijing and Shanghai. Agriculture, tourism and education (Xi Jiao Da (西交大) is a member of China’s C9 university elite) are key drivers of the local economy, and first impressions were positive. The freeways into the city were wide and broad, with advanced and newly built tollways designed as a hybrid between imperial and contemporary China.

A quick walk around the city where I was revealed a high concentration of the Islamic Hui minority stock (with 8.61 million, they are one of the largest of the 55 ethnic minorities) running the restaurants in the southern part of the city. Will definitely be finding out more about their integration into Han China.

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Filed under: Back to China, Bob's Opinion, Xi'An

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