Xi'an

Overview

Introduction

Except for its old city wall, some 8 mi/12 km around, Xi'an, China, (pronounced SHE-on) looks like any other large industrial city. It was once the capital of 13 dynasties within China, but is now one of dozens of major cities within the country. Xi'an is located 550 mi/885 km southwest of Beijing and and was the end point of the great Silk Road, giving the city rich historic relevance. While it is known primarily as the gateway for tourists to visit the terra cotta warriors, it has much more to offer, making it one of China's must-visit destinations.

Tours to see the terra-cotta troops often include stops at the tumulus (ancient grave mound) of the first emperor. There's not much to see there—basically, you walk to the top of a small hill. The unexcavated tomb lies below and is thought to contain fantastic riches. (Among the treasures rumored to be buried there are gold ducks floating on a river of mercury beneath a sky laden with pearl stars.)

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