As the terminus of the fabled Silk Road, home to the legendary Terracotta Army and acting capital to 13 different dynasties, Xi’an has been in China’s spotlights for over 3,000 years. Its rich history goes well beyond its city walls and many unknown treasures can be found in its culturally rich countryside, out of reach from the masses.
>> A GLIMPSE OF RURAL SHAANXI (half day)
Hop in a vintage army jeep and cruise countryside roads to abandoned cave dwellings, once common on the Loess Plateau. Follow a dirt track up the hill and stop at the home of retired Mrs. Qu, who has practised the art of paper-cutting since the age of 9. Next, visit a blacksmith who not only fixes locals’ farming equipment, but also forges replicas of ancient weapons in his free time. Snack on ‘Chinese hamburgers’ before you are taken back to Xi’an.
>> PIECING TOGETHER AN IMPERIAL PAST (full day)
Spend your morning diving into imperial history at the site of the Terracotta Army, built to protect China’s very first emperor in the afterlife. Visit a local workshop that produces warrior replicas, and perhaps try making your own, before you get to sample Shaanxi specialties for lunch. Next, head into the mountains to have tea with an elderly couple, who still live in a traditional cave dwelling. Soak in panoramic valley views on your way back to the city.
>> TREASURES OF THE QINLING MOUNTAINS (full day)
Make your way to the foothills of the Qinling Mountains, China’s natural barrier against nomadic invasions, and visit a giant panda rescue and breeding base, which is also home to other unique animals. Continue to a towering pagoda, said to be on the location of China’s very first Christian mission. Have lunch before you get hands on in a traditional paper-making workshop and top off your day sampling at a local baijiu distillery.