Dating back 630 years, Xi’an’s city wall offers visitors a fine vantage point as they zoom around its ramparts on bicycles. And as a proud civic symbol, it’s a favorite spot for lovers to take a stroll, while children play in its shadow.
Bathed in glorious spring sunshine – much welcome after a long winter – our full circle around the Xi’an city walls was an unforgettable experience.
Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province in northwestern China, boasts a history of more than 3,100 years. Named Chang’an before the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), it is one of the world’s four great ancient capitals. And with all due respect to Athens, Rome and Cairo – all I cared about right now was this center of the origins of Chinese ancient civilization, situated by the Yellow River estuary in the mid-western region of the country.
Or rather, its city wall was at the center of my attention.
These days, according to a friend of mine from Xi’an, people who live just under the city wall are all very proud of it. Children grow up playing around it, and the city wall garden is where you can sense the real local life of Xi’an people. In the morning, they exercise in the gardens around the city wall, some practicing taichi, some playing diabolo or kongzhu in Chinese. You can also hear the authentic qinqiang, the local opera performed by Shaanxi people. It is also a good place for lovers to have a walk. “You can see the lichen after rainy days, and kind of sense the vitality of the ancient wall,” my friend said.
Along the city walls there are several gates, with the main ones being Changle – or Eternal Joy – in the east, Anding – or Harmony Peace – in the west, Anyuan – or Forever Harmony – in the north and in the south, Yongning – or Eternal Peace. All the main gates have three towers, positioned to serve different purposes in defending.
The South Gate is the eastern starting and finishing point of the Silk Road, and hence the most beautifully decorated and famous one.
In ancient times Xi’an, or Chang’an, was the oriental cultural center of the Silk Road, and a vibrant and cosmopolitan city before any other in the Middle Kingdom.
These days, the South Gate square is often used by the provincial government for important official events and greetings, and there are regular performances, like the daily Gate Opening Ceremony, the Warrior Parade and acrobatics shows.
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