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Little Known Xian
Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province is famous for the terracotta warriors, its city walls, and the large wild goose pagoda. That is all most visitors to Xian know about this ancient and fascinating city. A visitor who does not go to visit the terracotta warriors will still have an amazing time in Xian. It is a city filled with interesting and historical sites. Being the capitol of 13 dynasties has left Xian filled with history, and culture. Although the aforementioned sites are amazing, they are also packed with visitors. There are many other sites, although just as spectacular, are not visited as often.
The Little Goose Pagoda Scenic Area features the newly opened Xian Museum (opened May 18th, 2007), is centered around the Little Goose Pagoda which although smaller than the more famous Big Wild Goose Pagoda, its design is charming and from the top visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. The pagoda is in the middle of a small temple complex which features many beautiful small temple buildings, and courtyards. The newly built Xian Museum is built on an artificial lake and features an architectural design that follows the traditional Chinese concept that heaven is round, and earth is square.
The Temple of the Eight Immortals is the largest Daoist temple in Xian and is famous for its original Daoist architecture. The temple is dedicated to the eight immortals, and features many beautiful gardens, buildings, and courtyards. It is a beautiful and peaceful place to escape the fast pace of the city.
In the center of the city of Xian stands the Bell, and Drum Towers. Although very popular with visitors during the day, the towers are most beautiful at night when they are nicely lit. They offer spectacular photographic opportunities, and great view of Xian’s nightlife. Behind the drum tower, is a large night market which features local arts and crafts and dozens of booths selling dried fruits. Xian is well known for its intricate shadow puppets, and many of the shops sell these beautiful puppets to visitors. Visitors walking through the market will see people cooking traditional Xian snacks in little booths. These cheap, yet delicious treats have been eaten by local people for hundreds of years.
The Shuyuan (Academy of Classical learning) Gate is located just inside the city wall on the south side of the ancient city. The gate is an entrance to a wonderful shopping street. Near the gate is an ancient stone pagoda, all that’s left of a long since destroyed temple. This street is lined with shops built in the architectural style of the Qing dynasty is a little known shopper’s paradise. The street sells only arts and crafts. Not cheap touristy souvenirs, but beautiful works of art. There are many shops selling traditional Chinese art supplies and visitors can watch many shops creating Chinese paint brushes by hand. There are shops selling fans, jade, traditional musical instruments, to name just a few. It is a great place to buy some real Chinese culture at good prices. It is not often visited by tourists, so it has not become too touristy.
The Tang Paradise opened in 2005 is a very large park. Its theme is the Tang Dynasty. Every aspect of the park is based on the Tang Dynasty originals. The designers have not only copied the Tang Dynasty imperial gardens, but have integrated almost everything representative of the Tang Dynasty, such as the poetry, songs and dances, marketplaces, food, women’s lifestyles and sciences into the park. The buildings in the park area representative of almost every style of architecture found in the Tang Dynasty, from palaces and temples, to shops and common people’s homes. There are many gates, tea houses, and beautifully designed pavilions located throughout the gardens. There is incense burners located every few meters along the paths in Tang Paradise. The burning incense adds a sense of mystery to the park. There are many shows for visitors throughout the park, many of which feature beautiful women in traditional Tang Dynasty costume dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments. One of the highlights of the park is every evening the park features a movie shown on a waterfall. It is a unique experience that makes the actors appear three dimensional, and lifelike. The movie like every other part of the park is Tang Dynasty themed.
Xian has held onto many of its traditional arts, which makes this city a wonderful place to experience the arts that has made China so famous.
The paintings from Huxian County have become famous throughout China for their bright colors and simple designs of peasant life. The artists who create these paintings are local farmers, who paint in their free time. These simple, but beautiful paintings have been attracting visitors from not only China, but abroad.
Drum music has been performed in Xian for more than a thousand years. It is a form of percussion music. Two forms of drums are used. One form is a drum that can be tuned, which means that the drum skin can be tightened to make a different pitch. The other form is a straightforward drum used to keep the rhythm. The sounds can be surprisingly complex letting the performers play a variety of music.
Xian has been making lanterns since the Han Dynasty, when they were hung in the streets as a light source. The lanterns of today are made not only for lighting, but for decorative purposes. They are a really beautiful accent for any home. The lanterns can be made of paper, silk, or gauze attached on frames of bamboo, wood, or metal.
The colorful steamed breads created by farmers are used for festive occasions like festivals, weddings, and birthdays. The dough is formed into the shapes of birds, tigers, butterflies, and many other shapes before being steamed. Colors are then added to the breads. They are very beautiful, and would be a shame to eat if they were not so delicious.
Shadow puppet shows are a traditional art form found in the north of China. It consists of a white piece of cloth with a light source behind it. Musicians and puppeteers work behind this screen. The puppeteers control thin leather puppets and the shadows they produce is projected on the cloth. The musicians perform accompanying music. The puppets themselves are works of art. They are made from thin transparent ox, or donkey hide. They are intricately cut into jointed puppets. Color is added to make them even livelier. They are works of art in their own right. The shadow puppets of Xian are famous throughout the world, and can be found in many markets. They can be framed, and are beautiful additions to any home.
Paper cuts are an art form enjoyed throughout China. Paper cutting is done by making a large stack of paper, with a pattern on top. The artist then uses a very fine pair of scissors to cut the paper into designs. The designs usually feature auspicious symbolism, or fanciful ones. The paper cuts are traditionally pasted onto windows during the Spring Festival. During weddings, paper cuts in the shape of the Chinese Double Happiness are used throughout the newlywed’s home to symbolize health, and happiness.
Fengxiang Painted Clay Figurines:
The brightly colored painted clay figures created around Xian are small, colorful, and beautiful works of art. The figurines were originally made by farmers to give to their children as toys. They are made from local clay and are shaped into mythological creatures, and characters from popular myths and fairytales. Their design is simple, but charming. These little figures can be found at many local markets.
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