After getting off the overnight train, we were greeted with a nice long walk on muddy pavement to the bus that would take us to the hotel. On the bus, Mary (a tour guide in training) gave us a rundown on what Xi’an is all about. Here’s was I can remember:
Translated, Xi’an means “West Peace.” It is known as the place in China that you go to study 3000 years of Chinese history, as it was once the capital city before Beijing. Beijing is where you go to study 1000 years of history, and Shanghai 400 years of history.
There are mountains on three sides of Xi’an, so it is often foggy here. This was both misleading and disappointing when we got off the train. After spending a week in Beijing, which seems to be the pollution capital of the world, I was looking forward to clear skies. Not yet, I guess. Maybe tomorrow. Xi’an is located in the center of China and is considered a very strategic location – or at least it was when people fought on horses.
The original city is surrounded by a large wall. Long ago, a drum would sound upon the opening and closing of the city’s walls to alert the warriors and other dwellers that they better get back or risk being stuck outside the wall all night. (Our hotel is outside the wall… hmmm.) Also, buildings inside the wall must be shorter than it so that you can see the clock-tower at all times. (I haven’t been over there yet, so don’t have a good idea of why this matters.)
Xi’an is known for its mix of traditional and modern ways – E.g. – inside the wall versus outside the wall. The people are very emotional, laid back, and enjoy their city. Mary also said they can be lazy, and cited their dining habits as evidence. Supposedly, if they’re feeling especially lazy, they’ll just put chili sauce on bread and eat it. (Sounds good to me.)
Xi’an is known for it’s dumplings and some kind of soup I didn’t catch the name of. The bordering provinces specialize, respectively, in spicy food and sour food. So, the Xi’an cuisine is spicy and sour. Believe it or not, rice isn’t terribly popular here. They’re in the “Wheat Belt,” and grow wheat from October to June; corn from June to October.
Mary claimed several firsts for Xi’an such as color TV, airplanes, and satellites. I’m a bit skeptical on this information, and assume she means Chinese firsts and not world firsts. I could be mistaken.
There is a large Muslim population here.
Squatting is popular. This was random. Overall, squatting seems more popular in China than in America. It’s somewhat awkward because when you see people squatting you can’t help but think of the toilets here, which require you to perform a difficult squat-n-hover maneuver (that I have yet to try). The origin of the squatting goes back to the soldiers. It was unsafe for them to remove their armor while on duty, so they would often squat to rest.
So, without really going outside that is what I’ve learned about Xi’an. More to come.