After finishing our midterm at the end of our fourth week here in Beijing, we headed out on an overnight train for a four day trip to Xi’an. After four weeks of studying and getting accustomed to life in China, it was nice to have a small break and get out of the Beijing air for a while. After eleven hours on a train ride through the Chinese countryside, we arrived in Xi’an, a beautiful and historical city. Our first impressions of Xi’an were all great, in that the air quality and scenery were all much better than where we are living in downtown Beijing. Not only that, but we soon learned that traditional Xi’an cuisine is quite good, and surprisingly different than the food we get on a daily basis in Beijing. We got to try many traditional foods, including “Chinese hamburgers,” soup dumplings, “pita bread soaked in lamb soup,” a sour plum drink, and various cold noodle dishes that were all quite good.
On our first day in Xi’an, we had the opportunity to see the famous Terra Cotta Warriors, and we were guided through the three sections of this roughly 2000 year old tomb to see the countless, all unique, hand-sculpted sculptures of Chinese soldiers, slaves, horses, and chariots. Seeing the Terra Cotta Warriors was definitely one of the highlights of my time in China so far.
Another highlight of the trip came that night as we watched the “The Long Regret,” a traditional and historical dance and performance put on every night in Xi’an. The performance was spectacular, and included traditional Chinese clothing and dances, fireworks, fountains, moving stages, lights across the mountains of Xi’an, and even the release of doves at the end. The next day was just as good as the first, as we rode bikes around the top of the Xi’an Ming City Wall. After renting bikes, we were able to ride as a group around the entire perimeter of the wall, and from there, look out over the interior of Xi’an. In addition, Xi’an also has a large population of Chinese Muslims, and we had the opportunity that day to explore the Muslim Street, a section of the city with countless shops and food stands—great places to practice our Chinese and bargaining skills. In addition, we also had the chance to visit two pagodas, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda and the Great Loving Kindness Temple, a historical Buddhist temple.
Xi’an was extremely interesting and beautiful, and it was a great place to learn more about Chinese history and culture. Overall, it was a great weekend and a nice break before starting the second half of our summer in Beijing.