Before visiting China, the two cities I always heard about were Shanghai and Beijing. They are both huge, filled with history, and famous for good reason, but one place we visited in China that was pretty much unknown to me was Xi'an.
Xi'an is one of the oldest cities in China (which in and of itself has a whole different meaning to the word "old"), and its name means "Western Peace." Our tour guide there told us all about the different dynasties throughout China's history, which was so interesting (and foreign) to me. My mom has been reading all about Chinese history since we got home, she was so intrigued!
The main attraction in Xi'an, and our reason for stopping there during our time in China... the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses. Oh. My. Goodness.
It's truly hard to put into words how fascinating these sculptures are, but I will try to explain why I found them to be so. First, they are over 2,000 years old. They actually used to be painted different colors, but the paint has worn off the warriors who are displayed to the public. Also, they were only discovered in 1974. 1974! Not very long ago at all. Some farmers were digging a well, and found pieces of the soldiers, alerted the authorities, and an excavation (that is still going on today) began.
So what is their purpose? These soldiers, horses, chariots, weapons, etc. were all created to be buried with the first Emperor of China (to protect him in his afterlife and make sure he still had people to rule over). Over 8,000 warriors meticulously made just to be buried. I find that to be pretty amazing.
OK, I could go on and on but I won't. This took up most of our visit to Xi'an, but we also made it to an art museum (we all bought a painting, they were SO beautiful), a dinner/theater show, and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
From the top of the pagoda you could see gorgeous views of the city. It was pretty hazy (smoggy?) that day, but I think the pictures turned out even more beautiful because of it. My dad, Ryan, Paul, and I climbed to the top and took it all in. My mom stayed back with our guide and got some more history lessons :)
Verdict? Xi'an is most definitely worth the trip, if you ever find yourself in China!