Xi’an – The birthplace of 5000 years of Chinese history
If you’re like me, always lost on cultural references and history trivia, this will be the not-so-comprehensive-but-good-enough guide for you. Let this be your part of your arsenal whenever someone in your group thinks it’s fun to talk about China and her past emperors. Who has the time to remember all 26 dynasties and the even crazier amounts of monarchs who ruled during that period?
Embark with me as I traverse 5000 years in a day and regale you with Emperor Qin’s fixation with the Terracotta Warriors, Emperor Tang’s love obsession with Yang Gui Fei, and Chiang Kai-Shek’s arrest in the Xi’an incident. As Jing had put it, forget Beijing. Xi’an is the birthplace of 5000 years of Chinese history.
The King of the State of Qin
You might know him as Qin Shi Huang, or the dude who built a bunch of clay sculptures to accompany his death – talk about a fancy funeral, or the ***hole who ordered the burning of books and slaughter of scholars back in the day. Well back in 221 BC to be exact.
Basically, he’s the man behind the Great Wall of China and Terracotta Warriors; the first ever emperor of an unified feudal China. Tons of tourists flock to Beijing to climb The Great Wall all year round, even during the cold winters. But go to Xi’an and you’ll experience a similar yet different lesson in Chinese history. Emperor Qin started The Great Wall, but it’s undergone much modifications and parts of it are expected to disappear due to erosions from sandstorms. Archaeologists are however, highly invested in their efforts in the excavation of the Terracotta Warriors.
Source: Paula Soler-Moya
This is how a warrior looked back in day. But like most of us, after being around for a long, long time, much of their zest for life and vigor faded away. Now they look like this.
Some of the chariots and warriors lost all fighting spirit and gave up completely. All that’s left is a crumbly clay mess.
At the Terracotta Warriors museum there are three major pits you should see, in addition to the standing cinema. My suggestion is go to the cinema first, so you’d better appreciate each pit later.
Pit 1 houses the biggest amount of Terracotta Warriors and is split into three sections – front, middle, and back. Thousands of warriors are poised east-facing in the front section, prepared for battle.
Here we see different types of war chariots and warriors; the feature of this pit is the Kneeling Archer.
Deemed the most important pit of the three, Pit 3 is the command center for all other chariots and warriors in the other pits. Most of them were headless though, so you won’t know how the brains of the Qin dynasty looked like.
The astute observers among us may have realised none of these warriors wore helmets. What, they didn’t practice safety regulations back then? The Qin state warriors had no helmets because they were taught to kill or be killed. What a bunch of crazies.
Fast Forward to Tang Dynasty
1000 years later Xi’an remained an important city. The Tang dynasty, with its capital at Xi’an experienced a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. In this period borne a love story most of us have heard about.
Here we went to the Huaqing Palace – or the hot springs museum – and looked at what royalty used to dip themselves in.
This was the bathing pool used by Emperor Tang and his gal pal Yang Guifei. Picture your very own hot tub at the snazziest, most exclusive spot in town. Also imagine dating your son’s wife and making her your concubine. That’s a quality reality TV script right there!
I hope my recount will be as exciting as the real drama that must have unfolded back then.
So before you enter the bathing pools built just for the sort-of-incestuous lovebirds, you’re faced with this unapologetic, bodacious statue of Yang Guifei.
Word is that she mesmerized him with her dance moves at his 60th birthday banquet. His obsession with her culminated in his eventual neglect of the empire, and also of course, in that shameless, unabashed display of her goodies.
So he made her his concubine, and their love story – like all sappy love stories – was filled with back and forths. Only theirs involved strangling the damsel to death. Oppositional armies blamed Yang Guifei for distracting the emperor, which she did; and forced him to kill her, which he did.
Before the heinous manslaughter of Yang Guifei though, the Tang dynasty flourished in the performing arts because Emperor Tang loved music and theatre. Nothing better than slow dancing with your favorite concubine and at other times, have a bevy of courtesans enthral you with music and wine.
So forward is the Tang dynasty during its time, you even get wifi here!
20th Century – The Xi’An Incident
It’s as though the Huaqing Palace demanded pivotal roles in major political upheavals and betrayals. Many centuries later this served as the site where the KMT (Kuo Min Tang) lost so tragically to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), no thanks to the sabotage by KMT’s very own generals.
Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the KMT’s refusal to work with the CCP led to his capture and forced surrender. His generals turned against him and felt that China should unify against an external enemy that is Japan, instead of fighting internal battles.
Because of that the Huaqing Palace has truly spanned Chinese history – from the private sanctuary of emperors and their consorts to modern revolutionary battles and gun holes etched in walls.
Complete your time travel with the Empress Banquet @ Grand Park Xi’an
With a five-star hotel situated in the heart of the city, and who boasts a great view of the city wall first built in 1374, dining here is truly a gastronomical history lecture in itself.
Start off fancy by drinking Consort Chou’s Wine from these beautiful wine glasses. They’re definitely not the most functional ones around but man are they pretty to look at.
Then indulge in dishes inspired from the banquets emperors and empresses used to have. Most of the food are produce which are found locally. I don’t know how much adaptation went into the dishes – I mean I’m having a really hard time imagining old fogeys eating the same type of food I’m eating today.
And with that you’ve come full circle! I hope my mini history lesson was of some use to you. Trying to grasp ancient Chinese history is extremely intimidating given the amount of time the Chinese civilisation has been around. But understanding it through folklore or biographical accounts makes it a little easier to relate to. I was in Xi’an for a couple of days and that was definitely an insufficient amount of time to take in everything, but I think I’m off to a good start.
Travel to Xi’an with Scoot
Scoot offers thrice-weekly direct flights between Singapore and Xi’an – every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
If you check out other flights offered to Xi’an they all require at least double the time Scoot takes to get you there. With Scoot it takes you about five hours to get from Singapore to the land of 5000 years of history! Now how’s that for convenience?
Our week in Xi An was made more comfortable by Grand Park Hotel’s top-notch services which came with a view overlooking the South Gate of Xi An.If you have anything interesting about Xi’An city to add on, do let us know in the comments below.
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This post was made possible by Scoot and Park Hotel Group.