There are apparently two things that one must do when in Xi’an. One is to see the city wall. The other is to eat a bowl of yáng ròu pào mó (羊肉泡馍).1 Yesterday, post-doc Liu Wan-gang2 and I had the soup with the requisite pickled garlic and chili for lunch, (top left click for larger image) and then in late afternoon after a visit to the central tea market (top right and bottom row; click for larger image),
we walked around the city wall of Xi’an. Actually, on top of it. And if you visit and don’t want to walk, you can rent a bike or hop on an electric open-sided bus-let.
We walked across the drawbridge around 6pm, entered through the South Gate (above), and headed east.
The city wall is sort of like New York City’s High Line, but the city wall is a 500-year-old, 13-km rectangle with battlements and ramparts with sentry posts, and that is surrounded by a moat. The top of the wall is at least 10 m wide, and the paving stones have been nicely restored in the last decade. Original paving stones are still visible at the four corners of the wall (the southeast corner is shown below, left; click on the image for a larger version) and on occasional slopes. Of particular note is that the outside edge of the wall is about 0.5-m higher than the inside edge of the wall (below right, inside of the wall is to the right; click on the image for a larger version), so while walking on it counterclockwise, my left foot was always a cm or so lower than my right. I’m sure this would have disconcerted the various hordes who regularly tried to sack Xi’an over the last few centuries.
The battlements are regularly spaced every few meters, whereas the ramparts are 90 m apart. Along the top of each wall, there are also lanterns hung from lamp posts every few meters; the lamp posts are topped with a finial that changes with the side: a phoenix on the south (left; click for a larger image), a dragon on the east, a snake & turtle on the north (right; click for a larger image), and a tiger on the west wall.
The views from the wall across the city were simply stunning. To the inside, we could see older buildings, some restored or reconstructed to period architecture (left; click to enlarge), others reflecting classic revolutionary functional aesthetics (right; click to enlarge)..
Most were lower than the city wall, although that is changing as land prices soar and flocks of China’s state bird come in for landings.
Outside the wall, we could see new high-rises and malls dwarfing Xi’an’s landmark Wild Goose Pagoda (far left) and Bell Tower (center and right); as it had rained much of the morning, we actually had pretty long views and clear-ish skies across the city. The daytime image is from the east wall; by the time we got to the west wall, it was already quite dark (click on each image to see a larger version).
The circumnavigating peregrination of the wall took us about three hours, long enough to go from dusk to dark; we exited the wall back at the South gate. Far and away the best exercise I’ve had since arriving in Xi’an, and outstanding company and scenery, too!