Phreaky Essays: Xi'an


Breakphreak's next stop on his travels through China took place in Xi'an. Read on to find out more about this wonderful city, and learn a bit of Chinese while you are at it!

Xi’an was the destination point for the journey part, made together with Matthias and Ella. Xi’an is also the place when I’ve started to try to read Chinese city names on long-distance buses :)

Some of the hieroglyphs are very illustrative and easy to remember: the most classic
example is , meaning “mountain”, stands for person, is “gate”. Near toilets you’ll always find and (easy, right?). There are more complicated but still well-understandable characters, like , meaning “road” or “street” – to me it looks like man and woman having a walk together :) or – kinda sun, coming up from the horizon – riiiight – that means “morning”. Xi’an (Western Peace) is “西安”, by the way.

Another interesting fact is that many Asian languages like Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean use nearly the same characters, but those characters have extremely different pronunciations (even within China), so that writing one to another is a common practice to resolve mutual misunderstanding. Also, there are several verbs for “don’t
understand”: one is “bu ming-bai”, while the other is “ting-bu-dong”, literally meaning “hear, but don’t understand” :)

So, Xi'an – the really big megapolis, is the ultimate center of nearly everything. Let’s start from one of the historical parts: the “Big Goose Pagoda” and its surrounding complex (once been a monastery). The pagoda was first built during VII-th century and was rebuilt 50 years after, accompanied by the new stories. The design was based on ancient Indian wild goose pagoda (stupa), hence the “Wild Goose Pagoda” name.

Yeah, we’ve been inside and seen everything, but mainly the panoramic view of the city. Sometimes the
information follows the events, though I do try to learn from my own mistakes, such as: just near the pagoda there is a huge square with the biggest music fountain in Asia (missed). On the other hand, you can’t have it all in a single trip :)

The world-wide known historical site is the Terracota Army – thousands of soldiers, a part of Qin Shi Huang mausoleum. That was the first Chinese emperors that not only united six kingdoms into an empire (paying all kinds of prices like: murders, bribes and spy networks to mention a few), but also had standardized units of measurements and legal system; built a network of roads and canals, promoting trade and transportation and also unified the Chinese script.

So, to save you from the rest of the details: we were there, the lightning conditions were not perfect, but it looks kinda cool with the Diana F+ the Fisheye lens and much less cool on site. Too much tourists, too much hype, the army is kinda far and only in one place only several soldiers can be observed from a close distance, so (no offense) this commercialized
place might be safely skipped, unless you are a historian or an archaeologist and have a special permit to get much closer to the items.

Terracotta soldiers in all sizes and also the copies of army general’s head can be seen almost in every shop, eating place or pub, like a pub of the youth hostel we’ve stayed in:

One evening, four of us got a beer there and started to enjoy the singers, but suddenly realized that they sing in Russian :) We’ve rolled some talk, the girls told me that there are lots of Russian-speaking students in Xi’an (and, actually a lot of students in general). Xi’an is a third academical center of China and university diplomas, received here are
highly valued everywhere.

Xi’an also is a big center of local Muslims. The Muslim quarter (just in the center of
the old town) should not be missed. During the day, you can visit the Great Mosque of

In the evening, the night market opens. Try the Muslim delicious food and buy some musical instruments and traditional Chinese shadow play puppets.

Xian also has the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower. Actually, every traditional Chinese city has those two at all times. The Bell strikes were to indicate time and the Drum sounds were usually used for informational messages passing. The towers are enormously big and each one maintains a museum. Well, museums are everywhere in China, but I still recommend to visit both towers for a simple reason: every two hours a concert is given in each tower (Chinese drums in the Drum Tower and Chinese musical instruments in the Bell Tower). I’ve sampled it all :) Rena took a pic of me :)

The last evening in Xi’an was a big celebration – it was Rena’s birthday! Matthias and Ella brought a big cake with a kind of candle – Rena lighted it – the flower opened and the music started to play.

The battery was very strong, so Matthias took an initiative and artificially interrupted the beautiful concert, so we’ve moved to the shelter pub and had some Absent till the late night.

Next day after the real farewell launch Matthias and Ella returned home (our truly hope is to meet again [and more then once!] in any part of the world) and we got on our train to Wuxi – our next destination. Expect a start of the real Chinese Tea saga – you must not escape it, reading about our journey through China (and we are a big Chinese tea fans since at least several years ago)!

written by breakphreak on 2009-03-06 in #news


  1. lomosexual_manboy
    lomosexual_manboy ·

    Another great entry from your travels. Always a pleasure.

  2. saviorjosh
    saviorjosh ·

    you know a lot of Chinese history!:)
    it's so interesting to read your travelogues as a native Chinese.
    i wish i had the chance to meet you in Beijing. must be fun.

  3. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    @saviorjosh: I learn only small facts on Chinese history on the way, I'd wish to know more.

    @all: if you are in Xi'an - develop your films in a big Kodak Express shop near the Drum Tower and _not_ in Fuji Digital (something cant' remember) lab.

  4. eyecon
    eyecon ·

    谢谢 教师! Great report and even nicer pics!

  5. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    @eyecon: Dank u, gasten! China is zeer gastvrij!

  6. stouf
    stouf ·

    Yeah great job breakphreak... Once again !!!

  7. breakphreak
    breakphreak ·

    @vicuna: thanks! and a great pleasure ofcourZe :)

  8. eyecon
    eyecon ·

    @breakphreak You are welcome....

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