Xi’an – An Ancient City Beckons

by Rosemarie John on September 19, 2014

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Standing at the base of the ancient walls

“You Persia, you Persia?” asked an old couple as I waited in a queue to purchase tickets for the city walls. They had been watching me intently for a while and after some hesitation, the dear old lady popped the question to me. English is not spoken here but that one simple question lingers with me till this very moment.

Who uses the word Persia these days? Modern generation perhaps does not even know what Persia constituted. If in this part of China, they use the word Persia, can you imagine how deep the roots of its ancient past are? I did remember reading in the Shaanxi History Museums about trade and religion brought in from Persia. The existence of the Muslim Quarter and the introduction of pomegranate to China all came from Persia – another great civilization lost in modern age.

I was queuing up here to see the city walls, the best preserved, oldest and largest ancient city defence system in China. I also noticed that for some time I was drawing a great deal of attention to myself. The people around haven’t seem to have seen a foreigner with my skin colour. The tourist activity in the region seemed to be more inland tourists who come from different parts of China to tour Xi’an. I kid you not; people took pictures of me everywhere I went. A few suddenly stopped in their tracks, looked at me, fished out their camera phones and snapped me. It was amusing and I confess I had mixed feelings of sometimes being some spectacle and sometimes feeling like a celebrity.

The old woman came close to me. Her body was leaning against me and she peered intently at my eyes. She was probably looking at my green contact lens. I tried telling her I am not a Persian. She didn’t believe me. She muttered, “You Persia!” She went back to her husband and they looked at me and smiled.

The central location of Xi’an, near the confluence of the Wei and Feng Rivers, helps explain why the area was the site of several important imperial capitals for almost a millennium of Chinese history. The ancient city wall is a reminder of the city’s greatness. It wraps itself seamlessly around the metropolis with its construction starting during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) and later on expanded by Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644).


The old couple were a cute pair

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie @ GnomeAngel.com September 20, 2014 at 10:54 am

I’ve wanted to go to China since I was a school child and I wrote about China for a school assignment. The colours are captivating… it’s got me thinking about a possible quilt design. So amazing. Can’t wait to read more! (PS. When you gonna take me with you! 😉 )
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Rosemarie John September 23, 2014 at 10:48 pm

I look forward to a Xi’an City Wall inspired quilt design! 🙂 (I can take you and leave Joseph behind! Hahahahaha)


Dennis Kopp September 21, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Wow Rosemarie and Joseph, I really can’t believe that I missed visiting Xian when I was in China. Even if I am not the biggest fan of Chinese cities, the wall and ramparts simply look amazing. Especially the gate towers are so beautifully decorated that it seems hard to imagine they were used for a military function. Thanks for sharing these great photos and insights and I will certainly make sure to keep Xian in mind for a possible next visit… 🙂
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Rosemarie John September 23, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Oh yes Dennis, the effort put in preservation by the government is just amazing. I am glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂


anna@shenANNAgans September 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I never knew Xi’an was once a capital city, thats fascinating. Amazing pics too..
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Rosemarie John September 23, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Thank you Anna! I will be writing more about Xi’an soon, so do check back to read about this amazing city!


Lesley Peterson September 24, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Extraordinary photos! The size of the walls, buildings and indeed China itself is mindboggling, as is its antiquity. Interesting approach that the city has taken to divide the Xi’an–allowing but restricting development so as not to alter the historic vistas. Great stuff.
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Rosemarie John September 29, 2014 at 4:38 am

Thank you Lesley! I never knew Xi’an was so historical until I read about it when i knew I was heading there! But once there I was blown away!


Elaine September 28, 2014 at 3:54 am

Of all the historically important cities in the world, Xi’an might be one of the most significant. Love how they have fused the modern age with the past though (the wi-fi at the city walls)!
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Rosemarie John September 29, 2014 at 4:36 am

I loved that bit too Elaine… I was like.. free Wi-Fi here? Then I sat on ancient stones and Instagrammed away! 🙂


Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans September 30, 2014 at 12:38 am

I love visiting places like this where the juxtaposition between the ancient and modern is so evident in the architecture. China hasn’t really been a high priority destination for me, but Xi’an definitely looks like a must whenever I finally do make it to China. Also, I appreciate you sharing your experience of what I call, “traveling in color.” It’s funny how all travelers – depending on where they’re traveling – can relate to both the awkwardness and amusement that go hand-in-hand with getting attention based on skin color.
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Rosemarie John September 30, 2014 at 12:43 am

I have so much more to write on Xi’an, I just haven’t got to it yet! And yes, “traveling in colour” was an experience. It was my first time experiencing such attention. It took me a while to learn how to look at it with amusement. 🙂


Heather October 5, 2014 at 8:11 am

I had my photo taken quite a bit in Xi’an too. Even standing in front of the terracotta warriors, young Chinese women wanted to pose with me. I found it very amusing!

Bicycling around the walls was by far my favorite thing we did in Xi’an. It’s amazing how well preserved they are!
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Lily Lau October 27, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Thanks for sharing this post, Rosemarie… 🙂 I’ve to visit Xian myself one day, that’s for sure!
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Rosemarie John October 28, 2014 at 1:16 am

Glad you enjoyed reading it Lily! Hope you visit Xi’an soon!


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