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Xian (central China) once vied with Rome and later Constantinople for the title of the greatest city in the world. Over a period of 2000 years, Xian has seen the rise and fall of numerous Chinese dynasties; the monuments and archeological sites in the city and the surrounding area are a reminder that Xian once stood at the very center of the Chinese world. Today Xi’an is one of the major attractions of China. The big draw is the Army of Terracotta Warriors, but there are countless other sights scattered in and around the city.
The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Xian area dates back 6000 years to Neolithic times. In time, the legendary Zhou established a capital on the bank of the Fen River near present-day Xian. Qin Shihuang became the first emperor of the united China and he established his capital at Xianyang near modern-day Xian. His longing for immortality gave posterity a remarkable legacy - a tomb guarded by thousands of terracotta soldiers.
Xian retains the rectangular shape that characterized most of the ancient Chinese cities, with streets and avenues laid out in a neat grid pattern. The central block of the city is surrounded by walls. In the city center is the Bell Tower (zhonglou) - a huge building that was built in the late 14th century. The large iron bell in the tower used to mark the time each day, hence the name. The Drum Tower (gulou), a smaller building to the west of the Bell Tower, marks the Muslim quarter of Xian. An interesting restored street filled with traders and craftspeople runs directly north from it.
Xian is one of the few cities of China where old city walls are still visible. The walls were built on the foundation of the walls of the Tang Forbidden City during the reign of Hong Wu, first emperor of the Ming Dynasty.
There is a lot of good street food in Xian. In winter, the entire population seems to get by on endless bowls of noodles, but at other times there are all kinds of delicious snacks to be had. You can try fenrerou, made by frying chopped mutton in a wok with fine-ground wheat, heletiao - dark brown sorghum of buck-wheat noodles, roujiamo - fried pork or beef stuffed in pita bread, yangroupaomo - a soup dish that involves breaking a flat loaf of bread into a bowl and adding a delicious mutton stock, or shuanguozi - a local hotpot.