Notes from Xian

This is the second of my posts originally intended for Facebook, reposted here for reasons of length. Again I’ve not tidied the text from my originally jotted down stream of consciousness.


Xian is the old capital. There’s been less clearance here, there’s more evident history. There’s a big Moslem population, so the snacks are different and the people much more ethnically diverse.

The terracotta warriors are extraordinary. Well displayed and impressive. They’re right to be proud of them.

Xian has a Muslim quarter. The streets are filled with motorbikes, mopeds, motorised rickshaws and the occasional car all weaving around pedestrians waving around them in turn. The pavements are lined with food stalls and hawker stands; there’s a souk filled with t-shirts, pashminas, toys, mementos. Obama dressed as a Chinese communist is a popular image, clearly aimed at American tourists.

We bought sesame glazed pastries with meat fillings. They were delicious. Outside kittens played among bags of food. Nobody minded. Later we ate a traditional dish. You shred thick and doughy flatbread into a myriad tiny pieces. When you’ve. Filled the bowl with the bread fragments it’s taken aside and filled with lamb soup from a kettle. The broth is thick and rich in flavour. It’s delicious, though tearing the bread took longer than eating the dish.

There’s a Great Mosque, a mix of Chinese and Islamic design features. Quite beautiful. There’s also a Daoist temple, the Eight Immortals’ Temple, full of art and carvings. A cafe there does vegetarian noodle and tofu dishes that are as good as anything I’ve tasted. The whole temple complex is a delight.

The centre of Xian, within or near the city walls, is where the action and history is. Outside it’s mile after mile of urban sprawl. High rises with washing hanging from the windows. It’s like Europe in that, if you’re in the banlieues it’s a different town.

In the very centre, between the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower, there’s an underground tunnel. It’s spacious and gleaming, and circular so offering the promise of easy access to all points around the main, traffic filled, square. The promise is a lie. The tunnel is a fractal Moebius strip. We walked for days in a circle never repeating our ground. I suspect god particles are generated there. Children could be born, grow up and grow old without finding their exit. The view from the Drum Tower’s nice though.



Filed under Personal posts

4 responses to “Notes from Xian

  1. I’m looking forward to see this city, in some ways more than any other. I like the idea of it being mixed — ethnically and architecture-wise. And nice to hear there’s some decent vegetarian food options!

  2. The Eight Immortals Temple is absolutely lovely, you should really try to see it. The cafe there is brilliant too, we had a really nice meal.

    I enjoyed the city, as you’ll see though Ma Jian slates it in Red Dust…

  3. As I have a blog named Notes from Xi’an and I enjoy writing, though not quite in the league of usual reading matter, I thought I would, as I have just stumbled upon your site, just say I have enjoyed what I have read so far and look forward to reading more as well taking advantage of your links and references. Thanks.

  4. Richard,

    Thanks for commenting. I’ll be having a look around your site, it would be good to learn more than I was able to manage in my brief trip.

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