Xi'an

Xi'an (西安 Xī'ān, pronounced SHEE-ahn) is a city in Shaanxi Province in China. The oldest surviving capital of ancient China, Xi'an is home to thousands of years of Chinese heritage and history.

Understand

The Terracotta Warriors

Xi'an is more than 3,000 years old and was known as Chang'an (长安) in ancient times. For 1,000 years, the city was the capital for 13 dynasties, and a total of 73 emperors ruled here. Xi'an is the undisputed root of Chinese civilization having served as the capital city for the Zhou, Qin, Han, and Tang dynasties. With so much history within the ground the city lies upon, it is no wonder that there are so many historical ruins, museums and cultural relics to be found here. It was already influencing the world outside of the Great Wall of China as the eastern terminus of the Silk Road (丝绸之路). Here traders from far and wide brought goods and ideas for sale and took goods and ideas back with them to their native countries. In present day Xi'an not much of its former glory remains within the city confines, due to the constant warfare and political changes that swept China particularly throughout the 20th Century. Today the city has a pleasant cosmopolitan flair to it and it is worth visiting for the famed Terracotta Warriors alone. It has often been said that, "if you have not been to Xi'an, you have not been to China!"

Climate

Xi'an has most of its annual precipitation from August to late October in the form of rain. It is characterised by hot summers and cold, dry winters. Spring and autumn will be somewhat brief and dry.

Get in

By plane

Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA: XIY) is located 40 km northwest of the city centre, in Xianyang. Flights are available to Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dunhuang, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Harbin, Hangzhou, Hohhot, Kunming, Lhasa, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Urumqi, Wuhan, Xining and Zhangjiajie within China, International flights are available to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul, Taipei as well as Tokyo in Japan, and Singapore via Kunming. As Xi'an is located in the heartland of China, it takes no more than 2 hours to fly to most major Chinese cities.

Most people use taxis or the airport bus to reach town from the airport, however taking a taxi is not recommended, as most taxi drivers will raise the price for non-local tourists. A taxi will cost about ¥150 from the airport to the Bell Tower downtown. You will pay around ¥50-75 more if you take one of the climatized Japanese black taxis rather than the typical green taxis. At the airport, both types of taxis are waiting at the same spot to pick up passengers. The airport bus leaves the airport from 08:00 until 01:00, a ticket costs ¥26 and takes about one hour; there are several lines but the most useful are Airport Bus No. 1 (no stop to the terminus in front of the Melody Hotel, at the beginning of West Street near the Bell Tower) and No. 2 (to the railway station). As long as there is an arriving flight, there will be a bus, so don't worry about arriving late at night or early morning; officially, on line 1 there is a bus every 20 minutes but buses will often depart as soon as they fill up. The airport bus route is the best way between city and the train station.

Getting to the terracotta warriors from the airport is complicated but can be done. Immediately when you walk out of the airport you can take bus #2 (¥27) to the train station. The train station is extremely crowded and most people do not speak English. When looking towards the train station, go to the parking lot on the right (in the east of train station square, Approx.100m away) and catch bus 306, also called Tourist Bus #5 (¥7). There are many fake public buses, so make sure you only take #306! The last stop is the terracotta warriors. To get back to the airport simply take the same exact route in reverse. Alternatively, taking taxi will costs you approx ¥85 plus toll charges of ¥15.

By train

Xi'an has two major train stations: Xi'an Railway Station, located just north of the walled central city, for the "conventional" trains, and Xi'an North Railway Station, a few miles farther north, for high-speed service.

"Conventional" trains

There are plenty of trains transporting passengers from Xi'an Railway Station to most of the major cities inside China. Keep in mind train tickets may only be available if booked far in advance (most ticket sales open 10–21 days in advance; an agent can help book but will probably charge significant commission fees). Traveling in a seat (hard or soft-class) means you will share the car space with lots of locals. You will most likely encounter smokers, loud noise, and constant activity in the aisle while you try to sleep. *Do not* travel hard class if you are uncomfortable with these settings. Sleeper cabins are limited to 6 people each (4 for deluxe soft sleepers, which are only on a few trains from Beijing); bottom bunks cost a bit more because they're a couple cm wider and could be sit on. If traveling alone, be especially careful of your luggage! Also note that bathrooms and washrooms may be closed (and locked!) 30–60 minutes before getting to the train station.

Trains run to most major cities throughout China. Typical travel times:

The fastest service is with Z-series express trains (usually overnight), followed by T-series "special fast" trains. The "fast" (K-series) and "regular" (no letter, just numbers in the designation) trains are slower. (Current schedule, in Chinese)

Xi'an Station is at the north end of Jiefang Road (解放路; pinyin: jiěfànglù),just outside the northeast city wall. As you exit, there will probably be lots of people offering cheap hotel rooms; just ignore them if you already have a room booked. Even if you don't, you probably don't want to get one from them anyway. Also, don't fall for the people who offer to exchange a Xi'an map for your used train ticket - they reuse them for some shady purposes, e.g. re-selling them to people who just want to get into the station or try to sneak on a train.

It is very easy to get to the Xi'an Railway Station by city bus from anywhere in the city. There are several stops within 200 m of the station (look for train station East or North on a bus route (火车站东/北). Many hostels also offer free pick-up if you arrive between 06:00 and 09:00.

High-speed trains

Xi'an North Railway Station, located a few miles north of the central city, is presently (Aug 2015) only served by the high-speed (G- and D-series) trains. There is frequent service to Zhengzhou (2–3 hours); many trains continue from Zhengzhou north or south, serving all major cities along the Beijing-Guangzhou-Shenzhen high-speed mainline (Wuhan (5–8 hours), Guangzhou (8 hours), Shenzhen (9 hours), Changsha, Shijiazhuang, Beijing (6 hours)).

Since the later 2013, there is also high-speed service to Baoji (an hour west from Xi'an).

An overnight train (D308/D305) goes from Xi'an North Railway Station to Shanghai (11 hrs), via Nanjing (8 hrs).

Xi'an North Railway Station is connected to subway line 2.

By bus

The main long-distance bus station - Shaanxi Province Long-distance Bus Station is located Approx.100m south to the exit or entry to Xi'an railway station, city wall in the middle of them, while both west and east there is a gate.

Bus service is available to: Huashan (2–3 hours), Lanzhou (8–10 hours), Luoyang (5–7 hours), Taiyuan (12 hours), and Zhengzhou (9–12 hours).

By car

Traffic is heavy, right of way is unheard of, and the rule of thumb is "keep going no matter what" (although drivers do note red lights).

Bell Tower (钟楼 Zhonglou)

Get around

The city is surrounded by a city wall, in its middle the Bell Tower (Chinese:钟楼; pinyin: Zhōnglóu). From this one, the four main streets descend into the four points of the compass.

Do not get confused by different names in tourist guides, addresses and bus stops: Nandajie, Nanda-Street, South-Street, South-Avenue are all the same.

Locals often speak about Within city walls and Outside city walls when talking about locations. Outside the walls, the southern part is the most interesting, it offers shopping streets, bars and some nightlife.

There are plenty of buses departing everywhere in short-intervals (main lines every 5–10 minutes). If you are not confident enough with orientation, or if you do not like packed buses, the cheap taxis are the best alternative, broadly available, except for during rush hours.

By train/subway

Xi'an currently has two subway lines, with one more under construction and further lines planned.


By bus

Regular buses within the city cost ¥1 (¥2 for air-conditioned, marked with a snow-flake) no matter how far you go. Since there are many buses in the city, it can be useful to go to the Tourism Office Center (which is situated near the Drum Tower) and ask for a free map of the city, with the buses' lines on it.

A popular line for tourists is #610 (also labeled "游8" in Chinese, which means "tourist #8") which connects the railway station, the Bell Tower, the Small Goose Pagoda and Xi'an Museum, the Shaanxi Historic Museum and the Big Goose Pagoda. Unfortunately it is not one of the most frequent (sometimes you can wait for half an hour, though usually it comes in a few minutes). Near the Bell Tower, it stops at the beginning of West Street; take it westwards to then go south to the museums and pagodas, take it eastwards to then go north to the railway station. Near the railway station (there are many stops for different lines) you can catch it at the third block on the main street going straight south from the station.

Another useful line is #609 that connects the Bell Tower, the South Gate and the Big Goose Pagoda. Near the Bell Tower, it stops at the beginning of South Street.

Although the 609 and 610 can be infrequent, the 611 is very frequent (multiple departures every minute in the rush our), and connects the train station and the Bell Tower, continuing to the west from the latter. Look for its stop across the road from the station (within the city walls). Its route is a loop at the railway station, so you can board the bus at the same stop for the city centre where you got off for the railway station. At the Bell Tower its stop towards the railway station is located at the beginning of the East Street.

Bus 500 takes you from the Railway Station to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in 12 stops. This area has the Great Tang All Day Mall as well as the Tang Paradise and the South Lake.

There are many buses leaving regularly for the Terracotta Warrior museum in front of the Xi'an bus station (east to the train station, outside (in the north) the city walls).

By taxi

Taxis are *very* limited. It can take a rather long time to find a vacant one and even then - given their choice of fares - they may decide to decline your destination for a more profitable one that is closer. Watch the taxi drivers in Xi'an as the industry is not regulated as it is in other larger cities. You may find yourself being taken on a long ride around town to get where you are going. It can also be difficult to convince them to take you anywhere (even to the railway station). If in doubt get your hotel or hostel to write down the place you want to go in Chinese. Between 3 and 5 o'clock in the afternoon the taxis change their shifts. This means the drivers are rushing to their handover points, so they won't pick you up even if they are empty.

Trips within the city walls are generally around ¥10, longer trips to the attractions south of the city are ¥12-20. Especially when you take a longer ride, like to or from the airport, it is always good advice to insist on using the taxi meter.

The rate for the normal (green) taxis is ¥6 for the first 2 kilometer and then ¥1.5 for every additional kilometer. Waiting times longer than 2 minutes will be charged ¥1.5 per minute. As of 2012, there is a fuel-surcharge on every ride of ¥1, so the price you have to pay is ¥1 higher than the meter shows (there is a sign on the taxi's dashboard showing this "rule"). After 23:00 the starting price is ¥7. At the airport and around some of the big hotels you might also find black taxis. They charge ¥2.4 per kilometer, but are more spacious and comfortable. There is a road fee of ¥10 for the Airport Expressway. This is not included in the price the taxi meter shows. So going to or coming from the airport is usually ¥10 more than what the meter shows.

Be careful when taking a cab to areas outside Xi'an City, for example the terra cotta warriors (bing ma yong). Such trips cost up to ¥120 and will not bring you all the way as the road is "apparently under maintenance and only the local cabs know the rest of the road to bing ma yong". So the cab will drop you off outside a building where you can view a model of bing ma yong for ¥30. Other local cab drivers will offer to bring you to a blue jade factory or a smaller version of bing ma yong after you view the replica. Be careful to reject going to such places as the cab drivers earn a commission from bringing you such places, which are no substitute for an authentic experience touring the actual bing ma yong. Thus, it is generally much safer and reliable to take the buses if you want to travel to bing ma yong.

By bike

Fortunately Xi'an's main sites (with the notable exception of the Terracotta Warriors) are bunched fairly close together. Be wary of the narrow streets and cars that squeeze you out of the way. Bike lanes are available on some streets, however, places to lock bikes, typically are not.

See

Inside/Near the city

Xi'an city wall at night

There is a small museum inside the city walls at Hanguang Gate, about halfway between the southwest corner and the South Gate, accessible from the top of the city wall itself. Look for a staircase down inside a covered structure. Inside are the unrestored remains of a gatehouse and a calligraphy collection. ¥50, ¥20 students (Feb 2014).

Opening hours are 09:00 - 12:00 and then 13:00 - 16:30 (17:00 in Summer). Closed on Mondays (Checked Feb 2015).

There will be long queues for tickets, as they are available cheaply (a prior version indicated free, if you brought your ID with you. But this is unconfirmed; if you look obviously foreign you won't be asked for id or a local telephone number). For locals there is a ¥20 charge for a ticket. However there is an option to beat the queue. Go for the 'tour ticket'; the line will be considerably shorter and it'll cost you ¥200 (although the face value is ¥300). If there is a special exhibition on, you will get entry to that as well (and if you purchase an audio guide, it'll work there too). ¥20 (free also available).

The Nestorian Stele tablet
Stone tablet in Beilin

This includes the famous Nestorian Stele, dating back to the 7th century. It depicts the coming of Nestorian Christianity to China. The Nestorian Stele is in Showroom Number 2 and is the first stele on the left. ¥50/¥25 Beilin Museum, foreign student cards not accepted (January 2012).

Outside the city

Do

Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, 2011

Work

Native and non-native English speakers can easily find jobs teaching English.

Buy

Souvenirs

Xi'an souvenirs include small copies of terracotta warriors, wood-carved Buddhas and dragons, Tang Tricolored Pottery, hand made paper cut (by many regarded as the most important arts form in Xi'an), all other kind of folk art and also fake western products.

Clothes

Xi'an is a great place to buy clothes.

Books

Foreign Language Bookstore 外文书店 The best place to hunt down an English language novel or book is the Foreign Language Bookstore. Almost every major city in China has one these days, but don't expect to be overwhelmed by the fabulous selection of English books – whether in Xi'an or in any city in China. Expect to find a handful of popular novels and classic prose. You'll also find bucket loads of English language text books and dictionaries for studying purposes.

Add: 349 Dong Dajie, Xincheng District, Xi'an 地址:西安市新城区东大街349号 Tel: 029 8721 9872?

Jiahui Hantang Book City 嘉汇汉唐书城 The largest bookstore in Xi'an, Book City has a fairly decent selection of imported English books. You'll find a wide range of books here, from educational ones, to classic novels, and modern literature to children's books. The place gets swamped with people at the weekends, so for a more pleasant browsing experience, come during a weekday.

Add: 111 Chang’an Zhonglu, Yanta District, Xi’an 地址:西安市雁塔区长安中路111号 Tel: 029 85219888 Opening times: 09:00-21:00

Xi'an Book Building 西安图书大厦 Another place worth checking out is the Xi'an Book Building, four floors of books as far as the eye can see. Though the vast majority of books are in the Chinese language, you will find a small selection of English books on the second floor. The building also houses a small audio and video section, as well as a café.

Add: 214 Jiefang Lu, Xi’an 地址:西安市新城区解放路236 Tel: 029 87416666 Opening hours: 09:00-21:00

Bell Tower Xinhua Bookstore 钟楼新华书店 Another very small English language book selection can be found at the Bell Tower Xinhua Bookstore. Unless you're nearby, your best bet for English books is still the Foreign Language Bookstore or even the Book City. However, if you're also looking for stationary, cards, wrapping paper etc. then it may be worth checking out and to trying to kill two birds with the one stone. Otherwise don't expect an English-language book Mecca here.

Add: 377 Dong Dajie, Xi'an 地址:西安市东大街377号 Tel: 029 8724 0844 Opening hours: 09:00-20:00

Eat

Xi'an specialties include:

The local speciality, Biang Biang Mian

Some good places to look for restaurants are:

Budget

A good way if you do not want the expensive hotel food or just want to try real Chinese cuisine, is to simply go into a small restaurant and point to a dish somebody else is having and you will get a meal for less than ¥10 (seldom ¥20) per person.

A good street for eating is Xiyang Shi running east-west near the mosque in the Muslim quarter.

Mid-range

McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC or its Chinese brother, Dicos, are widely available within city walls for a change from the daily Chinese cuisine. There are also three Starbucks within a 5-minute walk of the Bell Tower.

Splurge

Drink

Night clubs in Xi'an are not abundant. All clubs play the same music, a mix of Chinese disco and some pop music. Most people go out between 22:00 and 01:00, but clubs are generally open until 04:00.

Be mentally prepared to be aggressively approached by club operators desperate for patrons.

In summer time, the area around South Gate (南门) is beautiful. East of it are three nice bars with terraces and gardens.

Along the short Nandajie (南大街) are the most clubs (you can also eat on the street as there are restaurants open past midnight).

Other options include:

Sleep

As with most Chinese cities several cheap run down hotels can be found near the train station. There are a few decent ones inside the city walls on a road called Jie Fang Lu going directly south from train station. Bargaining is possible especially if you are staying for more than one night. Expect to pay under ¥100 for a single room as getting a room for as low as ¥30 is possible.

Budget

There are at least six international youth hostels right in the center of the city, easy to find.

Booking on the Internet will usually save you money, prices start around ¥15.

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Xi'an is, like other Chinese cities, generally quite safe. Just watch out for pickpockets (usually children) in crowds.

Pickpockets are more common during holidays. Pickpocketing is more likely to happen on the bus, in the East Street (the most properous commercial street in Xi'an), and some of the more crowded resorts like the North Square of the wild goose pagoda where there is a fountain show every night. Keep an eye on your camera. There are also a lot of people asking for your money and beggars.

Cope

Look at the Beijing#Cope notes as they apply to Xi'an, too. Most importantly, take paper tissue with you to toilets.

Generally, Western style accommodation will have western toilets, whereas the very inexpensive guest house (zhao dai suo) will usually have squat toilets. If you need to use western toilets, learn to plan your day accordingly. Major tourist attractions will have western toilets. There seems to be an unwritten agreement that Foreigners can use the toilets in most hotels as necessary.

If you arrive in Xi'an by train, try not to be overwhelmed when you exit Xi'an's train station. There are usually aggressive hotel touts looking for customers. Just insist that you already have a place to stay and tell them no, with a serious faced, 不要! / Bú yào!

Stay well clear of the taxi drivers at the railway station and near to the airport bus drop off points, they like to work off-meter and will charge up to ten times the normal fare if they can.

It is a good idea to leave your bags at the left luggage office and then go into town to look for accommodation. This way you will not be overwhelmed by the burden of carrying your heavy bags or luggage around.

Go next

Chen Lu Porcelain Town

Daqin Pagoda

The Daqin Pagoda (Mandarin Chinese: 大秦塔 Pinyin: Dàqíntă "Roman tower" 大秦寺 Pinyin: Dàqínsì "Roman temple"), the oldest known church building in China, is approximately 62 km west-southwest from Xi'an city centre. It's in Zhouzhi county (周至县 zhouzhi xian) and close to Tayu village (塔峪村 tayucun), approximately 1.5 km West of Louguantai Daoist temple (楼观台寺). The coordinates are approximately 34 03'32.92" N 108 18'26.19" E. It was built in 635 AD by Nestorian (Assyrian Church of the East) Christian missionaries who had come from Persia through Central Asia, Xinjiang and Gansu provinces via the silk road to Chang'an (modern day Xi'an) during the Tang dynasty. The site includes a replica of the Nestorian Stele, the original of which has been moved to the Beilin Museum's Forest of Steles in Xi'an, and the site also includes a small exhibition room with information about the pagoda's Christian history and some information about Nestorian Christianity in China. The pagoda fell out of use as a Christian building after several centuries, as Nestorian Christianity lost adherents in China, and after some time was taken over by Buddhists. Today it is used by Buddhist monks as a monastery and a Buddhist shrine / temple. Half of the premises around the pagoda are used by the Buddhist monks and the other half consists of historical monuments to Nestorian Christianity. Unless you make special arrangements before going there, you may only be able to see the bottom floor of the pagoda, which is now filled with an array of Buddhist statues. There are several floors in the pagoda which could only be reached with ladders or other climbing equipment. These floors contain paintings and sculptures depicting various Christian scenes. The exhibition room may also be locked unless you check beforehand.

To get there, go to Xi'an City Bus Station (西安汽车站), also known as the Xi'an Long-distance bus station (市长途汽车站) or Shuisi bus station(水司汽车站) just outside the city wall on the southwest edge of city. It is close to the corner of Fengqing road (丰庆路) and the Western Ring road (城西路). The entrance is in a smaller side street called Jiejiacun road (解家村路), which is about 300 metres west from the Fengqing lu / Western ring road intersection.

At this bus station take the bus which is going to Louguan (楼观). Buses are quite frequent and the last buses for the day are around 17:30-18:00 to and from Louguan.

Some buses take 1–2 hours and some take 2–3 hours. The quicker buses go down the expressways while the slower ones drive through the countryside through many small villages, stopping frequently to let passengers on and off before finally arriving at the carpark of Louguantai (楼观台), which is a famous Daoist temple complex. You can confirm with the driver that you are going to the Louguantai carpark; if you can't speak Chinese, show him the Chinese characters. When you arrive at the carpark you should be at the corner of 108 Provincial road (S108 or 108 Sheng Dao) and 220 County road (220 Xian Dao). At this corner there will likely be some taxis waiting nearby some people selling snacks and refreshments. You should also see a small police station opposite this corner, next to a small supermarket. Ask one of the local taxi drivers to show you the way. You may have to negotiate a price without using the meter. The pagoda is approximately 2 km south west of this corner. The taxi driver should drive about 1 kilometre westwards on the S108, then turn left into Tayucun road (塔峪村路). He should drive up the hill, and pass 2 or 3 bunches of small houses, before driving up a dirt (or mud) road before stopping. From here you will have to hike up the hill, which takes about 10 mins through some muddy footpaths past some corn fields and up onto the side of the hill where you will find the pagoda.

Routes through Xi'an

Lanzhou Xianyang  W  E  Sanmenxia Zhengzhou


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 07, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.