Xi’an Banpo Museum and the banpo site visit in China
Huaqing Hot Spring, Xi’an
Terracotta Warriors in the great hall, Terracotta Army Museum.
Dunhuang, Gansu, Mogao Grottoes cave, This is the caves of the Thousand Buddhas, form a system of 492 temples in Dunhuang, China.
Ürümqi in the winter.
- The Silk Road derives its name from the successful silk trade carried out among the routes during the Han Dynasty. With a plethora of different cities along the multiple routes, deciding which ones to visit can be a tough choice; each city has something unique to offer, though some can be seen as more significant than others. Xi’an, once called Chang’an, was the start of the northern route of the Silk Road, and at one point a very important part of the route itself. Xi’an is one of the oldest cities in China, and is even the oldest of the Four Great Ancient Capitals. Due to its age, Xi’an has quite a handful of rich cultural history to explore during a trip to the city. Xi’an Banpo Museum, for example, houses artifacts from the archeological site of the Banpo Neolithic settlement. Dating back over 6,000 years, it was discovered on the outskirts of Xi’an in 1953. Guests have access to the excavated buildings as well as several recreations made to resemble the Banpo Neolithic settlement.
- Another important cultural area found in Xi’an worth seeing during your Silk Road journey is Mount Li. One of eight scenic spots of the Guanzhong Plane, Mount Li’s sunset pavilion is a cozy spot built solely for the purpose of watching the sun set in its picturesque glory. At the northern foot of Mount Li you will find the Huaqing Hot Springs. Known not just for its AAAAA Scenic Area classification, Huaqing Hot Springs is the supposed location in which Emperor Xuanzong and Yang Guifei romance took place. The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emporer is located at the foothills of Mount Li, and one of the things that make it such a cultural area. Constructed over a span of 38 years, the mausoleum is found underneath a tomb mound shaped like a truncated pyramid. Though it has not been excavated, there are sites surrounding the mausoleum that have been. These sites are where the Terracotta Warriors were found. Excavations of a land area of over 20,000 square meters led to the discovery of roughly 7,000 terracotta statues of warriors and horses. The Terracotta Warriors are a form of funerary art that were buried with the Emperor in 210-209 BCE to protect him through his afterlife. The excavation sites as well as the mausoleum are on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. You can see them at the Terracotta Army Museum, one of the most popular activities on a visit to Xi’an.
- Dunhuang, a county-level city in the northwestern Gansu Province, is another charming to stop through as you make your way exploring the cities of the silk routes. Positioned strategically on the southern route of the Silk Road where it once could control the entrance to the ancient capitals Chang’an (Xi’an) and Luoyang, Dunhuang is located in a desert oasis. One of the features in this area classified as a must see is Crescent Lake, located right on the outskirts of the city and often a popular destination spot in Dunhuang. As its name states, the lake is shaped like a crescent moon and contains crystal clear water. As the day changes and the sun continues to move, the light cast upon the lake changes making every moment spent gazing at Crescent Lake’s beauty different. The area where Crescent Lake is located stays open late for visitors, so you even have the chance to soak up the night’s reflection on the opaque water. After you spend some time at the lake, Mingsha Shan is another must see of this desert oasis. Mingsha Shan, which means “Singing-sand mountain,” is made up of sand that upon close examination is an array of colors. When the wind blows quickly, the sand roars and screams. But, when the wind is barely a breeze you can hear the sand produce sounds similar to music; this is where the name Mingsha Shan is derived from.
- Built to commemorate Tianliu, the white horse of a Buddhist monk who carried Buddhist scriptures all the way from Kucha, the White Horse Pagoda is another sight to see on your Silk Road adventure. 39 feet high and 23 feet in total diameter, the White Horse Pagoda consists of 9 levels in total and represents the traditional Islamic style of architecture. While the second, third, and fourth tier of the Pagoda share the same features, every additional tier up until the final one (9 in total) have different characteristics and designs making them unique. This is one of the reasons it is a must see when visiting Dunhuang. Although not considered historic, the city is also known for its night market. Held on the main thoroughfare in the city centre, it is popular among those visiting the city. A plethora of souvenir objects can be purchased here, from jade and jewelry to Tibetan horns and Buddhist statues. Though all of these places within Dunhuang hold importance to the city and its culture, the most important and well-known find would have to be the Mogao Caves. These caves form a system of 492 temples containing some of the finest examples of Buddhist art spanning over 1,000 years! One cave, dubbed the Library Cave, was discovered to have held not only a large number of documents but over 15,000 books and textiles as well as Buddha figurines and paraphernalia. A number of the caves are open for exploration by visitors and have become a popular area to see in Dunhuang.
- Another city absolutely worth a visit along the Silk Road is Ürümqi, which is not only the largest city in China’s western interior, but was also a major hub on the Silk Road. Although it serves as a region transport node, Ürümqi has more to offer than just transportation. One of the sights you absolutely cannot miss on your Silk Road travels through Ürümqi is the Grand Bazaar. Better known as the International Grand Bazaar Xinjiang, the bazaar is the largest in the world by scale. It combines Islamic culture, architecture, and ethnic commerce among other things. It is one of the most famous landmarks found in Ürümqi, and a popular destination among visitors. Within it there is a food court, an open mosque, opera theatre, and even a sightseeing tower spanning just over 260 feet!
- Heavenly Lake, another crescent shaped lake, is a beautiful setting for an afternoon. About two hours outside of Ürümqi, Heavenly Lake covers 1.89 square miles and boasts ever-changing silver mountains, and wild flowers; it is absolutely worth the trek. It is some of the most famous alpine scenery in China. Due to the fact that it is a relic from the Quaternary Period Glacier it offers those interested in science something to explore and enjoy. The Xinjian Silk Road Museum should definitely be on your list of things to see in Ürümqi. Located next to the Grand Bazaar, the Xinjian Silk Road Museum focuses on the ancient history of the Han and Tang Dynasty civilization along the Silk Road, as well as present day cultures of various ethnic groups. Through the museum, visitors can get a better understanding and appreciation of the customs and cultures of these different groups. The museum houses a nationality section, a historical section, a pastoral section, and even a jade section! There are also art and artifacts on display to see that come from the Khitan Kingdom as well as some silk art and rock art.
A trip to any of these cities along the Silk Road with ChinaTour, the sponsor of this article, will not disappoint. Beautiful scenery and full of history and culture, The Silk Road is an important piece of China’s history. Don’t miss out on a chance to experience the route of a lifetime