City steeped in time
While best known for an imperial tomb guarded by terracotta warriors, the former Chinese capital of Xi'an boasts a plethora of other historic, cultural, religious and winter-sports attractions which are well worth checking out
Zhang Yongping recalls his grandmother telling him how, back in her youth, Xi'an used to be surrounded by rice fields and forests as far as the eye could see and how the gates to the walled city would be closed and barred at sunset and not re-opened for any reason until the following morning.
"It must have been scary for travellers who didn't make it there in time because there were wolves and foxes and tigers roaming around in the countryside back then. But when I was a boy there were no longer any wild beasts to be found here. Nor any farmland either. All there was to see were buildings and more buildings," said Zhang who is now in his 50s and works as a tourist guide. And that concrete jungle continues to expand.
Nowadays, if you visit Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, you cannot fail to notice the rash of construction sites, many of which are destined to become high-rise condominiums. Several major roads are also being dug up to allow the installation of tunnels for a second underground train line. Xi'an has an official population of 8.4 million, but that figure is continually growing.
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