Beauty And Chaos: Discovering Xi’an China

I didn’t know what to expect from China’s ancient imperial capital, Xi’an (pronounced She – an), except for the famous terracotta warriors. Even then, I had no idea how they would be exhibited, or whether or not they would blow my mind. They did, in a ‘oh-my-god-they-went-to-so-much-trouble-to-bury-their-dead-emporer’ kind of way.

Discovering Xi’an

It was a similar feeling to visiting the Pyramids and The Valley of the Kings in Egypt, with the addition of a few thousand Chinese tourists. That’s the thing about the Chinese, they love finding out about their own country, and with good reason, their ancestors were flat-out crazy. Crazy enough to organise and implement the building of the Great Wall to protect from Mongolian invaders, and sufficiently insane to immortalise an entire army in clay, complete with full-sized horses, to accompany their beloved Emporer to the afterlife.

It’s the sheer size of this thing that blew that mind. They haven’t even excavated it all yet but the largest ‘pit’ out of the three we saw was the size of a football field. Archeologists have painstakingly reconstructed each soldier, horse and chariot, positioning them as they would have been buried back in about 200 BC.

They were discovered by accident in 1974 when a farmer was digging a well, finding much more than just water. He unearthed a national treasure.

What a cool mistake!

Each statue is unique. Their size, body shape, height and facial expression all vary, which makes seeing them en masse even more spectacular. There is estimated to be over 8,000 soldiers and 520 horses, not to mention the weaponry, chariots and other implements that would have been buried with them.

After visiting the terracotta warriors, we headed out to Xi’an’s muslim quarter for dinner. The city is pretty manic as it is, but the muslim quarter turns the crazy-dial up a notch. I loved it, the atmosphere was electric, as were the bikes that almost ran us down every few steps. Halal meats, roasted walnuts and A LOT of dried fruit was on display as well as every trinket imaginable.

Yes, they have ‘orgasmatrons’ on their heads.

The sensory overload left us feeling pretty ragged after twenty minutes or so. We needed to eat. The restaurants were busy and intimidating, some of the food we didn’t even recognize. Despite Tyrone’s cries of Where are the kebabs? we settled on a street-side restaurant, where the noodles were cold and the meat was HOT. It was the sort of place where cigarette butts are stomped into the floor (not necessarily an anomaly in China), and people shout to each other over plates piled high with food (again, pretty common).

Tyrhone gave the ordering reigns over to me (woohoo!) and I returned with a selection of grilled meat sticks, handmade noodles, and a weird beef and flour thing. It was actually all delicious. The meat was tender, the beef and flour thingy was surprisingly good, but the piste de resistance was the cold square-shaped noodles in spicy sauce. I have been craving them ever since, and don’t think I will ever forget their tasty, textural goodness.

Taking the food ordering pretty seriously…

I think she wants two?!

Don’t let the plastic bags put you off, at least they’re clean

Satisfied with our culinary discoveries, it was back into the frey, to battle the crowds for a taxi, none of which wanted to take us, except an amiable lady driving an electric tuk-tuk. She charged us just over-the-odds for a super quiet, relatively slow ride home past ancient pagodas lit up like Vegas casinos.

It was delightful.

The following day we cycled around Xi’an’s ancient city wall, a perfect elevated position from which to survey the chaotic happenings of this now bustling, modern city. About half way around, we took a break from all the physical exertion at a small drinks stand, guzzling water and icy cokes. A young guy and his dad struck up a conversation, and after a few minutes of pleasant, dis-jointed chit-chat, they farewelled us with big smiles saying, “Welcome to China!” as they peddled away.

Soon after, we came across a photo-shoot taking place by the Tibetan-style Lamma Temple. Against the backdrop of the temple’s ornate roofs, a young couple, possibly newlyweds, posed for the cameras. The girl then took a break in the humid mid-afternoon heat, the folds of her crimson satin dress cascading voluptuously onto the dirty grey bricks.

It was a beautiful scene.

And another perfect example of the beauty that continues to arise out of China’s urban chaos.

Xi’an Xi’an Xi’an Xi’an



Beauty And Chaos: Discovering Xi’an China — 29 Comments

  1. Great post Jane, love the way you describe it, don’t know how I forgot about the ciggies on the floor! That was my favorite part of the meal.

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Love the photos, it’s great fun reading yours and Tyke’s posts. I save them up during the week for my train and tube trips. Love you guys loads, xx

    • Hi Taunee!!! Glad you enjoy them, nice to hear from you. I hope you have been struck by Olympic fever in London?! We would love to watch the opening ceremony, but haven’t had much luck streaming it in China. Oh well, enjoy, lots of love we miss you and hope its not too much longer till we see you again xxx

  3. I love the look on your face in the first picture of you ordering. It’s pure, “kid in a candy store” expression. You make everything sound so exciting! I love the first shot of the woman in the red dress. It’s very striking.

    • Yes, I like my food!!!! Thanks Carmel, have to give credit to Tyrhone on that photo, and I must say, I absolutely love it too!!! that dress is such an amazing colour- the colour of China for sure :)

    • Not yet! I was a bit worried with that meal, but we both came out of unscathed :) Have a good baby shower tomorrow sweety, wish I could be there for you xxx

  4. Would love to visit Xi’an, but are you sure the girls are wearing ‘orgasmatrons’??? “Safe Travels”

    • Ha!!! Maybe that’s just what we call them in Australia?! Perhaps ‘head massagers’ would be a better term?! :) Though have you ever tried one? They’re pretty good!!!

  5. As much as I love any pictures of food, I especially love the last two shots in this post. That red dress is GORGEOUS, and the juxtaposition between it and the grey surroundings absolutely perfect.

    Also, I think that being able to embrace the crazy is probably critical to one’s ability to enjoy China. Just go with it, I say!

    • Hi Steph, thank you, I love it too, Tyrhone took that one, and I agree the colours are so beautiful! Yes, definitely the way to go, embrace the crazy!!! We are off to the countryside tomorrow and I can’t wait for some mountains and fresh air :)

    • Oh you’ve been?! Of course, you are a Chinese medicine doctor, thats so interesting Andi, I really enjoyed Xi’an too, we are in Chengdu now and heading out west for some mountain air tomorrow. This country is so HUGE you would need a year to explore it all :)

  6. Beautiful photos! Wow. I’ve heard about the Terracotta statues but I imagine it’s one of those things you just have to see for yourself. almost unbelieveable, I imagine!

    Intersting, plastic bags on the bowls. I guess it reduces water use, cleaning and risk of using dirty water and getting sick. Never seen that before!

    • Hi Lauren!! I’ve been missing your posts, as I can’t read anything with word press in the title!!!! I look forward to catching up on them after we leave. Yes, the plastic bags were a bit weird, but honestly so those noodles were so good, I can’t even tell ya :)

      • Ah that’s strange, you can’t read anything with wordpress in the title?! Censorship in action.
        I’m never alerted of your replies and I’m guessing it’s because you’re a website using wordpress… Same thing happens with another blog I follow.

  7. Lovely post as always, Sarah…..but I do feel compelled to ask, (although I’m not certain I really want to know!…) what exactly is an “orgasmatron”??

    • He he, that’s what they’re called in Australia (a gimmick I assume!). They are head massages, and they’re pretty orgasmic!!!! I just thought it was funny that these chicks were just standing there with them on their heads, maybe something was lost in translation on my part :)

  8. Hi Sarah, Nice post about Xian. I enjoy the night market shots. Nice to see you in action ordering in sign language:) And oh, that shot of lady in red — divine! I hope those “orgasmatrons” will make their way to Chinatown in NYC. I’d like to have one:) Have fun in Chengdu. I had only been at its airport on the way to Tibet. I regret not spending sometime there; I heard the food is phenomenal. Let me know if its true.

  9. Sarah, YOUR PHOTOS!!!! That last photo of the girl in the red dress is unreal. I love reading about your experiences in China.

  10. Hey Sarah,

    Are all those pictures from the muslims quarter? Hmm, approximately how many stalls are there?

    • Hey Lela, yes, all the photos in the middle section are. There are countless foodstalls, trinket stores, and also a lot of nuts and dried fruit for sale. Not sure what it is like during the day but I think it is nightime when things come alive!

  11. Wow! The way u hav described the city is too good.
    Especially the food from muslim quarters. Must have been a wonderful experience.

  12. Wow Sarah, I have to agree with everyone else – that red dress photo – amazing! What an incredible shot. You and Tyrhone are quite the photographers, and your words as always are impeccable :)

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