Noilly Prattle: China 2017: 3 - Xi'an in the snow

Thursday, April 13, 2017

China 2017: 3 - Xi'an in the snow

     We had only a couple days to spend in Xi'an.

Qin Shi Huangdi
       Xi'an (pronounced shee'ahn) is one of the oldest cities in China. Xi'an became a cultural and political center of China in the 11th Century B.C. In the 3rd Century B.C. it was founded as his capital city by the first ruler to call himself an emperor, Qin (Chin) Dynasty Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. During the Ming Dynasty in 1370 A.D., a new wall was constructed and remains intact to this day. The wall is well maintained and very impressive. It measures 11.9 km (7.4 mi) in total length. The modern day Xi'an metropolitan area has a population of more than 13,000,000. And that is that for statistics.

being restored
       Before continuing, I want to sing the praises of the restorative properties of strong coffee when savored slowly while waking up. Thus, relaxed and sipping our morning coffee we decided to explore the old town of Xi'an on our first full day and make arrangements for a car and guide to visit the Terra Cotta Army site the following day.

new and improved "view" from our room window
winter fairyland 
       Finally restored enough to get out of bed and look out at the view, I got a wonderful surprise. I looked out the window and it was snowing, transforming the drab view of the night before into something that looked almost like an idyllic Xmas Card in my imagination at least. It kept on snowing off and on all day and it turned the whole town into a winter fairyland. We heard that it rarely snows in Xi'an so we were lucky to get a snow day. Although it was a bit cold and slushy for walking in the wet snow, we bundled up and, hesitantly at first, set forth to see some of the popular sights within the walled town—the Bell Tower, the Drum Tower and the Muslim Temple.

easily walkable distance from the Aurum Hotel to the Muslim Quarter and back

       We had lunch at a very local, very popular and very noisy restaurant that serves what they rather irrationally call a “hamburger”. It consists of shredded pork in a kind of pita pocket bread. We each had one of those and a drink made of fermented fragrant olive flowers, slightly alcoholic. I ordered a wonton soup but got a sweet egg drop concoction that I wasn't particularly crazy about instead—really, sweet soup! But the “hamburger” and the drink were very good and very reasonably priced.


the Bell Tower
the Drum Tower
souk-like shopping arcade
       The Bell Tower and the the Drum Tower are just a short walk from the restaurant; after taking a few pictures we walked around the Drum Tower and entered a shopping street area common in Chinese cities except that this one was in the Muslim Quarter of Xi'an. I was fascinated by this arcade because it reminded of the the souks and bazaars I had seen in the Middle East many years ago. The Muslim Temple was a little tricky to find but after walking through the maze-like shopping arcade we finally stumbled upon the temple. There was a small admission fee and, when we entered, the temple grounds looked beautiful in the newly fallen snow. Since snow is a rarity in Xi'an seeing the temple precinct in the snow was a true photo-op--it was difficult to be restrained.


Arabic script on  stone wall

first glimpse inside the Muslim temple looks very Chinese

red and beige harmonics predominate

white snow emphasizes the dark curly branches beautifully

an elegant complementary touch of green

double roofed gate nicely framed in white snow and dark lattice

delicious lamb kebab
busy, busy, busy
       I bought some lamb kebab from a street vendor on the way back to the hotel that was delicious; saw a traditionally dressed woman busily making souvenirs; bought tickets for admission to the Drum Tower in time for a short concert inside the tower. The very accomplished musicians were dressed in period costumes and played on a variety of traditional instruments. The koto player in particular was a virtuoso and had a hypnotic effect on me.

koto and flute players

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