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china Travel

THE HISTORIC CENTER OF XIAN

Xian (Shaanxi Province) is a very old and planned city with more than 3,100 years of history and culture. It is also one of the ancient capitals of China.

The center is surrounded by a huge wall, forming a rectangle of 12km of perimeter surrounded by a moat, is the most preserved wall in China, with its proper repairs. In the center is located the “Bell Tower” and the “Drum Tower”. The city wall separating the center of the suburb was originally built in 1370 in the Ming Dynasty, but only took the current form with bricks in 1568. It has 12m high and its base 18m wide, as well as several watchtowers.

The “Bell Tower” is the heart of the city although it is not at the epicenter of the wall, it was built in 1384, rebuilt in 1582 and restored in 1739, obviously has a large bell, made of bronze. The architecture is typical Chinese and its green roof forms the largest and best preserved “Bell Tower” of all China.

The “Drum Tower”, a few meters from the Bell Tower, is a larger building and contains dozens of huge drums. Behind the Drum Tower was the famous Muslim Quarter of Hui minority. They are said to be descendants of 8th-century Arab soldiers. The streets were narrow and the grocery stores, restaurants and stalls sold typical Muslim things, such as sheep’s head to eat the brain.

I walked from the south gate of the wall (it is the main entrance) to the west gate and then to the north gate. The day was cloudy, better than fog, because visibility is better without that opaque sky that was bad for photos.

Xian also have its department stores with the famous brands in the center.

The next day, despite being Tuesday, I went to do a biking, for me it was a “Sunday”. And the day was sunny and clear skies, good for photos! The biking was on the top of the city wall, from the south gate I followed clockwise to the west and then to the north, where the railway is, passing through several watchtowers. I paid an expensive bike renting, considering local standards, $2.50 for a hundred minutes. From the north gate I walked to the “Bell Tower”, I would still pass dozens of times through the center.

Biking on the wall.

Xian soldiers in the city center. Bell Tower in the background.

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china Travel

BACK TO XIAN

My trip from Lanzhou to Xian was a string of delays, the bus delayed an hour, stopped to be repaired for another hour, had a detour on the way and a lot of traffic, and the road was stopped because of works, there were many trucks on the single narrow lane between the mountains. In the middle of the road appeared a lady selling food in styrofoam marmites brought in an aluminum tray, I do not know where it came from, but I ended up buying one and it was warm.

The forecast to arrive at 7pm was totally wrong and I arrived at 1:30 am at Flávio’s house, without remembering which condominium or floor it was. I was lucky to find a resident coming in and borrowed his cell phone to call. I was obviously fooled as to the length of the route, Chinese likes to cheat!

In the next two months I would devote myself to the studies of Mandarin and Cantonese in Xian. It was September 1st. 2006, my day of gravy, rest day and lots of rain. At least it was fresh, Xian is usually very hot, but the season was over. It was also the day to do my accounting, edit photos and update my blog.

The next day I met Regiane, a Brazilian from Ceará who was studying Chinese in Xian, she lived in the same condominium as Flávio. We had lunch all together.

The dinner was with American students at a supposed to be a Brazilian steakhouse. I was anxious, but it was a mistake, only the way of preparation was Brazilian, but the meats and other things had nothing to do with it. No picanha, fraldinha, contrafilé or filet mignon. I’d have to wait until the next year to kill the longing.

On Sunday I went to a Sunday service with the foreigners at Anita’s house, an American who grew up in Brazil, she loved Brazil and had a northeastern accent. The whole day was “smog”, glad it does not exist in Brazil, it was a sunny day but the sky was covered by a fog, taking all the liveliness of a clear sky.

I noticed that in China there is no squeegee and it is difficult to find beverage machines as in Japan or Taiwan.

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china Travel

THE PARTY

A cloudy day but no rain. I studied a little Mandarin in the morning and in the afternoon a crowd came to watch a movie at Flávio’s home, it was almost twenty people in total. It was very cramped the apartment, most of them were Chinese who wanted to train English. Flavio prepared some questions to be answered after the film, it was a pleasant moment. Any little meeting here they call it a party. Only Seal didn’t know English.

Ten of us had a dinner in a Chinese restaurant with another group of foreigners, and as my taste was different I ended up not liking what they have ordered, besides they were always ordering the same dishes. I preferred the Chinese restaurants in Brazil.

Written by Traveler Ni

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china Travel

TOWARDS THE CENTER OF THE EMPIRE OF THE CENTER

The flight from Beijing to Xian by China Southern was delayed about three hours because of yesterday’s rain. I had decided to go by plane instead of train, because I still felt insecure in this country. From Xian Airport, I took a bus to the center (the “Bell Tower”), and from there i took a taxi to Flávio’s house in the south region, which came out cheaper than taking a taxi straight from the airport.

Flávio, a Brazilian friend, was here to study the Mandarin language, the official language of China. In the evening we went out for dinner in a pizzeria of an English woman with some friends of Flavio, English and Welsh people , despite the good company, the pizzeria was no wonder, nothing compares to the Brazilian pizzas!

Xian, which means “Peace of the West”, was the capital of China during 13 dynasties between 1000 BC and 1000 AD, was known as Chang An, meaning “Eternal Peace”. It is the current capital of Shaanxi Province, situated almost in the geodesic center of China southwest of Beijing. It has a population of 5 million people and is very rich in culture and ancient history, being one of the ancient cities where the Silk Road began or ended (depending on the reference), famous for the accounts of Marco Polo, the merchant of Venice. Xian is famous for the Terracotta Warriors, a discovery made near the city.