Experience Xi'an Anew
Residence Manager of Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi'an, Michael Xu, shares the city's modernity against the ancient relics
Issue: Jan 2012
Xi'an, while full of historical sites like the City Wall (above), is also growing into a sophisticated, modern city that Michael Xu loves
Xi'an, known as Chang'an during ancient times, is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, established his capital just northwest of modern Xi'an and his mausoleum, which houses the famous Terracotta Army, is situated just east of Xi'an. These, along with the fact that city is the starting point of the Ancient Silk Route, has made Xi'an a place that many associate with China's rich, layered history and colourful culture. But as a native of Xi'an, I can say with certainty that the city is constantly renewing itself to offer the sophisticated traveller new experiences built on the rich foundations of its past.
Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi'an offers modern living in close proximity to ancient, historical sites
Modern Living Even as History Blooms
Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi'an, where I am the Residence Manager, is a perfect example of modernity in the midst of history. Opened in November 2011, the apart'hotel is stylishly decorated with a suite of amenities and services. With 138 units, a fully- equipped gym, meeting rooms and WiFi zones, the property offers all the must-haves of the modern world. However, it is also right at the doorstep of a piece of history - the well-known Xingqing Palace Park. Just a five-minute walk away from Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi'an, the park is built on the ruins of the palace dating back to the Tang Dynasty. Within the park are pavilions and towers such as Chengxian Pavilion, the Flower Shedding Brilliance Gallery, Nanxun Hall, Dragon-tying Hall and Changqing Hall which are modeled after architecture of that era and built on their original sites. Amidst the sparkling blue waters of the lake, you can enjoy close to 50 hectares of verdant trees, fresh blooms and immaculate lawns. The garden within the city is a place I enjoy when I need a place for quiet reflection and getting in touch with nature.
Another modern place set against the backdrop of history is a hangout I like to recommend my guests. King Garden Bar (老城根酒吧) is a bar outside Yuxiang Gate at the foot of the ancient City Wall. Just a 20-minute drive from Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi'an, the bar is built in the style of old houses with open courtyards. On a warm night, you can sit in the courtyard and be entertained by a live band with a drink in your hand. I like indulging in a perfectly modern way of chilling out, while being surrounded by reminders of the city's past.
Sip a drink at King Garden Bar at the foot of the City Wall and enjoy modern leisure against a historical backdrop
Photo credit: en1.xian-tourism.com
Da Ming Palace National Heritage Park is one of the newest attractions in Xi'an that banks on its history
Photo credit: www.english.cri.cn
Xi'an is, of course, famous for the Terracotta Army that continues to guard the tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang; and the City Wall. These walls once protected the city and it is the most complete city wall that has survived in China. It is also my favourite place for a Sunday morning walk where you can see the city in progress as you walk on history.
But the city does not depend solely on its ancient relics to draw the crowds. It has made an art of refreshing its old attractions and making them all-new as well. Da Ming Palace National Heritage Park is one such example. Da Ming Palace sits at the centre of Xi'an and was once the centre of politics, economics and culture in the Tang Dynasty. Around the palace was a park and recreation area for the nobility. But over time, as the empire crumbled, so did the area.
In 2007, the government and the municipal committee of Xi'an decided to turn the area into the Da Ming Palace National Heritage Park to recreate the royal grounds as it was in its heydays during the Tang Dynasty. When it opened just over a year ago on National Day in October 2010, I had the opportunity to visit the nearly 20 square-kilometre ruins park. This place is truly a mix of old and new, natural and organised. I went to the museum to learn about the history of the place. But the moment I got out, I could watch movies at the 3D cinemas in the premise. I did not get a chance to do it but you can rent a bike and tour the grounds, enjoying nature. Or, do what I did, take in a free performance. These can range from modern art to traditional dances, depending on the occasion. For me, Da Ming Palace National Heritage Park has successfully revived the buzz of the Tang Dynasty with hype and activity of the 21st century.
Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi'an Residence Manager, Michael Xu, is proud to see the continual renewal of Xi'an without abandoning its heritage
Another old place made new is Famen Temple about one and a half hour away from Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi'an. The 1,700-year-old Buddhist temple is the largest of 19 pagodas in China built to house relics of Buddhism and has great religious significance because it has not one but four important relics of Buddhism, including the finger bone relic of Sakyamuni. Archaeologically, it is the second most important place next to the Terracotta Army. In 1987, during the rebuilding of the pagoda, an underground palace of the Tang Dynasty was discovered, the largest underground palace in pagodas ever to be found in China. But while I enjoy the tranquillity of the place with its deep religious and historical value, I also go there to admire modern architecture. Coming from Xi'an, it makes me proud to see that my city is continually renewing itself without abandoning its heritage.
Crossroads of Cuisines
Xi'an has been the hub of North-west China and being the start of the Ancient Silk Route, its cuisine has a mix of North China, Sichuan and even Muslim influences. What I enjoy best of local food is the snacks: dumplings, Rou Jia Mo (Chinese bread with mince meat), steamed buns and mutton soup. A must-try is a dumpling banquet. You get more than 15 different types of dumplings to try, cooked in different styles with different fillings. It is a dumpling buffet bar none.
Five minutes' drive from Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi'an is DongLaiSheng Snacks Restaurant where you can sample other Xi'an snacks. It is a little-known place I love that has Hulu Chicken (Crispy Fried Chicken), Rou Jia Mo and noodles.
Xi'an is a wonderful place to immerse yourself in history and culture while enjoying all the benefits of modern living. It has the beauty of the old and the fresh flavours of the new. Living in this city, I have the full benefit of China's past and the conveniences of its advancement into the future. Now, that is what I call “the best of both worlds”.
Stay with us at ...
Citadines Xingqing Palace Xi’an
159 Xingqing Road, Beilin District,
Xi’an 710049, China.
Tel: (86-29) 8338 0588
Fax: (86-29) 8338 0599
Citadines Central Xi'an
36 Zhubashi, Beilin District
Xi'an 710002, China
Tel: (86-29) 8576 1188
Fax: (86-29) 8576 1189
Citadines Gaoxin Xi'an
13 Gaoxin Si Road,
Hi-Tech Zone, Xi’an 710075, China
Tel: (86-29) 8843 7888
Fax: (86-29) 8843 7999