Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Historical and Cultural Xi’an, China

April 18, 2020


If you are seeking places to visit in China, I highly recommend visiting Xi’an, particularly if you enjoy history. Currently the Upper Primary Art Teacher for Xi’an Liangjiatan International School, I have had the opportunity to visit many of this ancient city’s sights. While it is not one of the top cities in terms of population, it ranks near the top in terms of historical importance. For over 1,000 years it served as the capital of China under thirteen dynasties and 73 emperors. Some of its notable dynasties included the Qin, Tang, Han, and Zhang. Even today, construction efforts of this rapidly expanding city continue to be interrupted by archaeological discoveries.

Terracotta Warriors and Emperor Qin ShiHuang Mausoleum 

 Most people come to Xi’an to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Terracotta Warriors, located about 20 km east of modern Xi’an. Despite the large crowds (over 1 million visitors annually), this site is a must. Don’t forget to visit the Exhibition Hall and the Qin ShiHuang Mausoleum, both of which are included in the entrance fee. Just as with any popular destination in China, avoid going during any Chinese national holiday. In winter, crowds are less, as is the entrance fee. Getting your own transportation there (such as a taxi or Didi – China’s version of Uber) will be more expensive, but it will enable you to arrive early and before the tour groups. After being one of the first people in line for tickets, I immediately headed to Pit 1 and had it to myself for over five minutes. Pit 1 and the Exhibition Hall were the most impressive ones for me. Cheap, local buses will take you back into Xi’an. Tour guides are available, but I opted to conduct my own research prior to visiting. You will find many people selling souvenirs; you can find similar ones in Xi’an at a much better price.

Xi’an City Wall

One of Xi’an’s most recognizable landmarks is its city wall. This massive well-preserved structure (much of which dates back to the 14th century) is surrounded by a moat. Rent a bike or walk on top of the wall, for all or part of the 14 km (8.7 miles) length. Around the time of Chinese New Year, a lantern festival is held here. To experience fewer crowds during this time, I recommend going while it is daylight and observe the changes to the lanterns and watchtowers as nightfall descends. For photography of the wall and surrounding city, you have a greater chance of clear skies outside of late fall/winter. Air quality in winter can be quite bad.

Drum and Bell Tower

Centrally located within the confines of the ancient City Wall are the Drum and Bell Towers. Built in 1384, Xi’an’s Bell Tower is the largest and the best-preserved in all of China. Nearby is the Drum Tower (1380), also one of the largest in China. Both structures are beautifully illuminated at night. For a small fee, you can ascend the structures and also see some artifacts. From the Drum Tower, you can also see the immensely popular Muslim Quarters.

Muslim Quarter

If you follow the crowds near the Drum Tower, you will find yourself in what is known as the Muslim Quarter. Foodies (particularly meat-eaters) will rejoice, with the plethora of tasty offerings in this crowded area. Snack your way along or rest your feet in one of its many restaurants that serve up signature dishes such as hand-pulled noodles (one of my favorites), steamed dumplings, or Yangrou Pao Mo (pita bread pieces soaked in lamb soup). The Xi’an hamburger also makes a tasty snack. The Muslim Quarter is also a fun place for photography–if you don’t mind the crowds. While in the Muslim Quarter, you can take in a short shadow puppet show in Gao’s Grand Courtyard. 

While in the Muslim Quarter, don’t miss the Grand Mosque. The largest and one of the most important mosques in China, the Grand Mosque dates back over a thousand years. Enjoy its beautiful traditional architecture while you get a respite from the bustle of the crowded food streets. Its minaret and the Phoenix Pavilion are particularly noteworthy.

Shuyuanmen Ancient Cultural Street

Located just to the east of the South Gate of the City Wall is the Shuyuanmen Ancient Cultural Street. Many of its well-restored buildings date back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. It is pleasant to wander the street and peek into the small shops selling calligraphy supplies, papercuts, shadow puppets, jade, paintings, and other souvenirs. During the Chinese New Year, the street is even more lively. At the end of the street is the famous Stele Forest.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Also known as Dayanta, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in China. Originally built in 652AD, the present 7-story brick structure was built without any cement. It was constructed to house Buddhist relics brought from India via the Silk Road. Visitors can pay a small fee to climb up the UNESCO World Heritage site to see some statues, paintings, poems, and great city views. While there, visit some of the structures within the Da Ci’en Buddhist Temple (648 AD). At the spacious North Square is the largest fountain square in Asia. At night, the fountain shows (set to music) are illuminated, as is the pagoda. The fountain show is particularly enjoyable on a warm late spring/late summer evening.

Small Wild Goose Pagoda

Located five kilometers away from its bigger brother, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda was erected in 709AD. Like Dayanta, the Small Wild Goose Pagoda is architecturally significant and well-preserved. On the same park-like grounds is the Xi’an Museum (free admission with passport). It houses over 130,000 relics and historical artifacts. Elsewhere in the park is a visitor center. I enjoyed learning more about how shadow puppets are made.

Shaanxi History Museum

This world-class museum houses over 370,000 exhibits, of which many of the items were excavated within the province. Exhibits within the three main halls are dual-sign-posted in Mandarin and English. Some of the museum’s signature pieces include several TerraCotta Warriors, Tang Dynasty tri-colored pottery (my favorite), and Tang Dynasty mural paintings. Admission (with passport) is free, but the Tang Murals Hall requires a separate, paid ticket. Any lover of history/art should visit this museum.

Han Yang Ling Mausoleum of the Han Dynasty

Otherwise known as the Tomb of Emperor Jingdi, the joint tomb of Liu Qi and his empress Wang covers an area of 20 square kilometers. Built in 153AD, the emperor’s tomb is at the center. The Outside Pits Exhibition Hall is the first underground museum in China. Transparent walkways enable visitors to see excavations of his tomb in progress–a very cool effect.  It contains over 50,000 terracotta doll-size figures and life-like animals arranged as if it were an army formation. 

Tang Paradise

Located just north of the original Tang Dynasty Lotus Garden site, this theme park is built in the style of the Tang royal garden. While it is pleasant to wander the beautiful grounds and admire the beautiful Tang-style architecture, it is especially beautiful during the Chinese New Year. During this period, huge lanterns and illuminated sculptures are a sight to behold in the lake and throughout the park. Indoor and outdoor cultural performances entertain visitors, along with the world’s largest movie on water-screen. I enjoyed the dragon dance outside the Zihyun building and some mini-concerts inside. Tang Paradise is also a beautiful place for photography in the spring.

Qinglong Temple

If you happen to be in Xi’an during the cherry blossom season, be sure to visit Qinglong Temple (originally dating back to 582 AD). Opening hours are extended, so try to be there very early in order to avoid the hordes of people. Bring your passport and camera. The area around the main Buddhist temple buildings is full of cherry blossoms. The area around the bridge is also very picturesque.

Getting Around

Many of Xi’an’s other popular sites are located fairly close to each other. The subway, signposted in English, is continually expanding, making it easier to get around to some of these sights. Taxis are available, but be sure to have the address written in Mandarin, because few drivers understand English. For expats living in China, DiDi is convenient. iPhone users will be able to use Apple Maps VPN-free to navigate, including subway and public buses.

This article was submitted by guest author and ISC member, Melissa Enderle.

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5 Reasons You Should Live and Travel in China 🇨🇳

February 26, 2018


China is a country full of culture and history. It is a place that everyone should travel to at least once in their lives, even live there if you are interested. Not convinced? In this article, we are going to take a look at just 5 of the reasons that you should consider living and traveling in China.

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1. Rich History

China has a rich history that you can only really comprehend by seeing it for yourself. Throughout the centuries, China was ruled by dynasties, each coming with their own unique era of Chinese history. Now known as the People’s Republic of China, this switch wasn’t made until 1949 with the Chinese Revolution, a piece of history that can be felt in the country even today.

The point is, there’s a lot about China that you don’t know until you’re there. If you are just traveling, take some time to visit one of the many museums the country has to offer or even historical landmarks. If you are going to live there, take some time to study your new home country. What you find won’t cease to amaze and surprise you.

2. Beautiful Language

Mandarin is the most widely spoken version of Chinese in the world, especially the People’s Republic of China. It is also a very old language, showing up as early as 4,000 years ago! The sound of the language is beautiful but the history and story of the language is gorgeous as well.

The language consists of an excess of 40,000 symbols, each one representing a syllable or concept rather than a phonetic sound, like in English. This is how it has been throughout its history and it is only recently that it has been attempted to simplify the language and give it a more phonetic approach. Still, to be considered literate in the language, you have to be able to read and use 3,000 of the language’s symbols.

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Another interesting fact is that Chinese is a tonal language. This means that words may have different meanings depending on the tone used to say them. The language uses four tones and each one gives certain words new meaning. However, other dialects can feature up to nine tones, so in this case Chinese is slightly simpler.

3. Diverse People

China is full of diverse people as well. Home to more than 55 minorities, you will meet many different kinds of people as you travel about China. This allows you to make friends of different ethnicities with no problem and learn from the people around you as well as from museums and studying.

4. High Standard of Living

China has relatively low wages for work but don’t let that deter you from living there. This is because the cost of living is so low that you don’t need to earn high wages to live comfortably like in the United States or elsewhere.

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To give you an example, an average (and filling) Chinese meal out costs around $1.50 in US dollars. This makes living and eating out on a budget much easier in China than in other countries thanks to the higher standard of living.

5. Try Something New

Finally, you should move to or travel to China to change up your routine. Moving or traveling to a new country is a great way to learn new things and experience things you have never experienced before. Even if it is just to travel there for a few days, China will give you an experience you won’t forget anytime soon.

This is further expanded by all the new people you’ll meet. With the rise of social media, this is becoming easier and easier. You can join Facebook groups or find out about groups and meetings in your area to learn new things and experience things you might not have thought to do before or just couldn’t do in your home country.

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Conclusion

There are plenty of reasons why visiting or living in China is a fantastic option. From new things to learn to experiencing China’s high standard of living to learning Mandarin by total submersion, there is no end to the opportunities it offers you. So, travel to China and stay for a few days or a few years, you won’t regret your visit or the years you live there. There is plenty to see and plenty to do to teach you about the history of China or even just entertain you in your day-to-day life.

This article was submitted by guest author and ISC member: David Smith
“David Smith is a blogger and world traveler, with experience in China’s manufacturing industry, as well as social media marketing in his hometown of Los Angeles, California. When not staring at a computer screen, David is an avid badminton player and photographer of natural landscapes.”

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While living in foreign country you might periodically ask yourself: What is this thing?

March 28, 2012


What is this thing?!

You eyes search around for a purpose.

I can‘t see what this is for?!

You try and fiddle around with it.

Try and turn it on! Is this right?

I just found this on the bottom of one of my walls, very close to the floor, and just outside my bathroom.

When I turn it on, the green light goes on but nothing happens.  So, I guess I will just keep it off.  Thank goodness for the internet.  It turns out it is some sort of thermostat.  I am still not for sure if I will use it though.  For sure people don’t typically have these things on the walls (near the floor) in homes in the United States.

While living in another country, this was what my washing machine looked like; the Little Swan.  Not knowing how to read Chinese characters, I for sure had no clue what kind of functions this machine had or could do.  I guess you just take a guess and try to get it started some how and hope that you can get someone into your home to show you how to use it!

The joys of living in a house or an apartment in a different country!  Many international school teachers have worked in more than one country and in each country there are definitely going to be these “things” that just don’t look right, that we can’t figure out or that we can’t (initially) understand the purpose of.

International School Community would like to highlight a few parts of this blogger’s entry (living in Jordan) who had a similar experience with a ‘thing’ in her bathroom:

“This a picture of something on the floor in the bathroom, the kitchen, and the laundry room. What do these rooms have in common? What is it?

Answer: Okay, you are super smart. It’s a drain. But on the floor? Why?

Part II: What is this?

Answer: No duh, it’s a squeegee, right. Is it for windows? No! What is the relationship between the drains and the squeegee?

Put it all together and what do you get? It’s actually quite ingenious. The drain I’ll grant you is disgusting looking. When I opened it the first time, I shuddered. I’d clean it out, but we have a ‘house cleaner’ who does that (and no, I’m not trying to sound obnoxious. I’ve never had a house cleaner because we could never afford one, but here it’s so cheap, i.e. see pedicure blog, that we can’t afford not to have someone clean the house). Anyway, I’ve witnessed the magic of the marriage these two items firsthand. You wash your floor with a mop and then squeegee all of the excess water into the drain. Isn’t that smart? Who knew? Well, you probably knew, but it took me a week to figure it out. I’ll let you tally your own score on this first pop quiz. Don’t be smug is you did well. They’ll get harder.”

Currently, there are 8 international schools listed under Jordan on International School Community:

International Community School of Amman (0 Comments)

Modern American School (0 Comments)

American Community School (Amman) (4 Comments)

Amman Baccalaureate School (8 Comments)

The International Academy (Amman) (8 Comments)

The International School of Choueifat (Amman) (0 Comments)

Ahliyyah School for Girls (4 Comments)

King’s Academy (7 Comments)

Check out the latest comments and information that have been submitted on these schools or submit your own at International School Community.

Also, we encourage you to leave a comment about the strange things you have found in your home while living in a foreign country.

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