Wandering China

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

Wandering China Day 7: Xi’An Day 2


Day 7 Photo Story – exploring the Xi’An’s past – the ancient city of Chang An. I am having problems updating wordpress at the moment – it seems to run really slowly when I am in China. The rest of the entry will *fingers crossed* arrive soon.

The day started with brekkie at MacDonald's - price? All of 7¥. = $1.2AUD.

The Drum Tower of Xi'an (西安鼓楼) was built in the early Ming Dynasty in the 14th century and was named as such as it featured a large drum in the tower that signaled the end of the day. Its cousin, the bell tower would signal the start. In terms of dimensions, it is 34 meters high and a little more than 52 meters long from east to west and 38 meters wide from north to south.

Looking west from atop the Drum Tower, Xi'An. Unlike the other Chinese cities I've visited, ancient and contemporary Xi'An are accorded respect and space with each other. Xi'An city (at least within the original Tang City Walls) is spacious, featuring broad streets, perhaps indicative of a design mindful its past as capital city over 13 dynasties. One sore point - like much of China's advanced cities, the skies are almost never blue. It's been 3 days and polluted skies have been the name of the game.

The Great Mosque of Xi’An (西安大清真寺) on Huajue Lane is the oldest mosque in China and founded in 742AD during the Tang dynasty. This mosque is still used today by the Hui minority as a place of worship and interestingly, completely Chinese in construction and architectural style, and lacks the Middle Eastern/Arabic tradition of domes and minarets. It was very interesting to find out that China had a tradition of being open to foreign religions, thanks to the Silk Road the Jesuits and Muslims had entered China; evidence China’s great walls were not always ‘closed’. Here is one angle at pondering the question if there is religious freedom in China.

Reminder to protect the environment in the Great Mosque in three languages. In Mandarin in reads literally - protect the peace.

Lunch was here at the Hui Min Jie West Gate where the Hui minorities have congregated over the years. These streets are where the Hui people themselves go about their daily lives, on top of being a top drawer tourist spot.

The street is just north of the Drum tower. Here is a popular Hui pancake/bun store. Overheard - some say the muslim Hui minority in China is a religious destination, not a question of ethnicity.

Xi'An Bell Tower - The tower was built in 1384 by Tang Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang to dominate the surrounding countryside and provide early warning of attack. It makes the geographical center of the ancient capital. From here extends the East, South, West and North Streets, connecting the Tower to the East, South, West and North Gates of the city walls. To the bottom right corner is the mascot of International Horticultural Expo in red - designed after the city flower of Xi'an, the pomegranate blossom. The pomegranate is not indigenous to China; it came via the silk road way back in the past.

Xi’An traffic around the South Gate. Traffic in Xi’An like much of developing China, is an absolute mess for most used to a system where drivers and pedestrians actually follow the road signs. The traffic signals here remain an aesthetic display. Zebra crossings are at best, indicators of where is safest to cross the road, but no cars nor public buses, nor police vehicles actually pause to give way to pedestrians. China, despite the overwhelming propaganda plastered around the cities to move towards being a civilised 文明 society – there is still some way to go towards being civil on the roads. I remain positive that it is not too far away though.

Shaanxi History Museum - like many public museums in China, entry is free, but one is required to queue at set times for the tickets. I had to queue a little more than an hour to get in; and it was somewhat worth it - there the fossils of the Lantian man 蓝田人, older than the better known Peking man. Architecturally the museum was designed in the Tang style. As Xi'An was the ancient imperial capital of 13 Chinese dynasties, there were relics galore including a very interesting Tang mural that proved that Polo was played in China back then.

This was the highlight of the Shaanxi History Museum for me - Zhang Qian 张骞 was probably one of China's first and clearly defined diplomats, Zhang Qian as a Han dynasty imperial envoy was responsible for opening up the ancient Silk Road, i.e. China's foreign affairs officially started with this man. Today Zhang Qian is seen as a national icon for the role he played in opening China to the world of commmerce more than two thousand years ago.

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

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