Wo xi huan Xi’an!

Xi’an is an incredible city. With a population of about 6 million people, it is considerably smaller than Beijing, but it more than makes up for that in character.

The connection to the past combined with its modern pulse make it an incredible place to visit. Peking University, where my program is based out of, is far from the center of Beijing. Sometimes, this can make life feel quite isolated. We are surrounded by students and academics 24/7, and I would venture that they are not fully representative of the rest of China’s population.

Last weekend, we took a group trip to Xi’an, a once capital of China. Although now mostly known as the city to stay in if one wishes to see the terra-cotta warriors (often referred to by our tour-guide as the eighth wonder of the world), it is an amazing place within itself. Our hotel was blocks away from the center of the city, and it afforded us some amazing opportunities to explore.

If there was one thing that stuck out about Xi’an, it was the food. While there, we did try the city’s famous yangrou pao mo, which consists of small pieces of heavy bread torn into small pieces with lamb meat and broth ladled on top, but it wasn’t very tasty. The consistency was glue-like and the meat was minimal. What made up for this was the street food: walking along one of the market streets in the Muslim quarter, I was surrounded by amazing different dishes being prepared. From the Chinese sandwich, a piece of heavy pita-like bread split open and filled with cooked beef, to the chinese tostada, fried in a giant pan of oil filled with pork and vegetables, it more than met expectations of how amazing Chinese food can be.

Across the street from our hotel was a small restaurant which was quiet during the day. At night, however, the sidewalk filled up with tables, where one could order a number of different dishes: delicious meat skewers, very spicy noodles, and a type of fried eggplant. The variety and quality (especially for the price) could not be beat.

The rest of our time in the city was spent touring around the famous sites. Our excursion was led by the most tactless tour guide I have ever encountered: although polite at the beginning of the tour, within no time at all she was very disagreeable and just overall seemed to dislike the group. Nevertheless, we saw some pretty amazing things.

The Terra-cotta warriors

I won’t give you the entire history, as wikipedia does a much better job, but these stone guards for the Emperor are a sight. It’s almost eerie as they stand in their rows, life-size, all with different facial expressions. We didn’t spend a ton of time at the site, but enough to see how extensive the set-up is. There are approximately 6,000 terracotta warriors, ready for battle.

We also spent some time checking out the city wall. Built as protection for the city, the wall is about 15 miles long and well-preserved. Within the city, there are many large skyscrapers, shopping malls, and other buildings, most of which light up at night.

Xi’an was a vibrant and exciting place, and definitely my favorite place I’ve visited in China thus far! It was also nice to sleep in a bed with real pillows and just be in the center of things for a change.


Tomorrow, I’m heading to Shanghai with my friend Mitchell on the high-speed rail, the second-fastest train on earth, for national day. We have a week off from classes, so it’s going to be a nice change. Now, off to prepare an essay and study for a Chinese quiz…


About Jonathan Rice

Fulbright Fellow, Pitzer College alum, and communicator passionate about telling stories that make an impact.

Posted on 09/29/2011, in College, General, Pitzer in China - Fall 2011 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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