|Xi'an in Shaanxi province offers visitors beautiful night views of the country's the most complete city wal.l(Wang Jing/China Daily)|
BEIJING, June 7 (Xinhuanet) -- A relaxed visa policy makes it easy for tourists in transit to see China's ancient capital. Ma Lie reveals how to make the most of three days at the Silk Road's starting point.
Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province and well-known as the hometown of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) Terracotta Warriors, can now be enjoyed by transit visitors. The city will enact a 72-hour visa-free policy beginning June 1 for travelers from 51 countries. It is the first city in Northwest China, and the eighth in the country, approved to implement such a policy.
Transit passengers holding valid visas and a flight ticket to the third country are allowed to stay visa-free in the administrative areas of Xi'an and Xianyang, a city neighboring Xi'an and the location of Xi'an Xianyang International Airport, for three days, says Cui Guozheng, deputy director of the exit and entry administration bureau under the provincial public security department.
The 51 countries include most of Europe, six countries from the Americas, two Oceania countries and six Asian countries.
According to Cui, the landing day is not included in the 72 hours of the visa-free time: The clock starts at midnight at the end of the day they arrive at the airport.
At present, there are 12 international or regional air routes between Xi'an Xianyang International Airport and Helsinki (Finland); Seoul, Busan and Jeju (South Korea); Bangkok and Phuket (Thailand), Nagoya and Tokyo (Japan); Danang (Vietnam); and Siem Reap (Cambodia), as well as Hong Kong and Taipei. More routes will be added over the next 18 months.
Xi'an, known in China as "the eternal city", reflects the great changes of the nation just like a living history book. Called Chang'an in ancient times, Xi'an is one of the birthplaces of the ancient civilization in the Yellow River basin. During the 3,100-year development, 13 dynasties including Western Zhou (11th century-771 BC), Qin (221-206 BC), Western Han (206 BC-24 AD) and Tang (AD 618-907) placed their capitals here.
Day 1: Terracotta Warriors
Many consider the Terracotta Warriors and Horses to be the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century. Discovered in 1974, work is ongoing at the site near Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum in Lintong district. It is a must-see for any visitor to China.
Since the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum opened to the public in October 1979, it has attracted more than 200 global dignitaries from abroad.
The museum covers an area of 16,300 square meters, divided into three excavation pits. Altogether over 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots and weapons have been unearthed from the three pits housed at the museum.
The archaeological marvels put Xi'an on the map for tourists from around the world, and it was listed by UNESCO in 1987 as a World Cultural Heritage Site.
After seeing the ancient ceramic army, you can go to Mount Lishan, a scenic spot nearby. Wandering in the scenic royal garden at the foot of the mountain, you can wash away your travel fatigue in the Huaqing Hotspring, a royal bathhouse built 3,000 years ago.
Day 2: High and low views
First stop: the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (Dayan Ta), which is located in the southern suburb of the city, about 4 kilometers from downtown. A symbol of old Xi'an, the pagoda is a well-preserved ancient building and a holy place for Buddhists.
After getting a bird's-eye view of the city from the top of this 64-meter-high structure, visit Shaanxi History Museum, about 1 km northwest of the pagoda. The museum is a grand complex of buildings imitating the architectural style of the Tang Dynasty and showcasing thousands of ancient exhibits.
Day 3: City wall and delicious food
Xi'an boasts the most complete city wall to survive in China - it's also one of the largest ancient military defense systems in the world.
First built in the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and renovated in recent years, the wall now stands 12 meters high, 12-14 meters wide at the top and 15-18 meters thick at the bottom. It stretches 13.7 km in length and is surrounded by a deep moat and a circular park.
Try making the circuit on a bicycle: They can be rented by the hour.
The Forest of Stone Steles Museum, inside the wall near the south gate, was the site of the Temple of Confucius during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). It was established in 1087 when some precious stone steles were moved in for safekeeping.
With an area of 31,000 sq m and 900 years of history, this treasure house holds some 3,000 stone steles of different periods, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) to the Qing Dynasty.
Also inside the wall, there are a number of traditional Shaanxi restaurants that offer distinctive delicacies, such as Xi'an dumpings, yangrou paomo (crumbled unleavened bread simmered in mutton stew), hulu tou (broth with intestines and tripe), buckwheat and Qishan noodles.