Xian Culture

Xi'an culture carries many heritages of the dynasties it had went though. Xi 'an is an important birthplace of Chinese history and culture, and one of the earliest regions where human civilization developed. In the history of the Chinese nation for thousands of years, perhaps no other city has enjoyed such a lofty status and incomparable splendor as Xi'an has. This section will give you an introduction to Xi'an culture including Xi'an dialect, Xi'an religions such as Buddhism, Taoism and Muslim as well as Xi'an folk culture like food culture, Qinqiang opera and Xi'an artcrafts, etc.

History of  Xi'an

As one of the world's four famous ancient civilizations, Xi 'an is a world famous historical and cultural city with a long history. Xian has a history of over 6000 years and had been the capital of countries for 1200 years. There have been 13 dynasties set Xian as their capitals. Since the Western Han Dynasty, Xi'an has become the key city of economic and cultural exchanges and friendly relationships between China and other countries. In ancient times, "Lantian ape man" lived here. The Neolithic "Banpo Ancestors" established tribes here. In the 11th century BC, Emperor Zhou Wenwang established Fenghao Second Capital on both sides of Fenghe River. From then on, Xi 'an's millennium glorious history of imperial city was started. It is reputed as "the ancient imperial state of Qin". Xi 'an was once China's political, economic and cultural center and the earliest city to open to the outside world. Xi 'an was the starting point of the famous Silk Road. The Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum, one of the "eight wonders of the world", show the city's powerful and profound historical and cultural details. Xi 'an enjoys the reputation of "Natural History Museum" due to its long history and cultural accumulation. There are many kinds of cultural relics and historic sites with large quantity and high value, which are second to none in the country. Many of them are rare treasures in China and the world. The course of Xi'an history can be divided into 7 sections as Early History, Zhou Dynasty, Qin Dynasty, Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Ming Dynasty, The Republic of China and The People's Republic of China.

More about History of Xian.

Xi'an Religion Culture

It is said that temples in the city of Xi'an are a reflection of the religious situation in China. Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Christianity coexist in Xi 'an. There are not only Confucius and Mencius Confucianism, which has a deep-rooted influence on the Chinese nation, but also Taoism, as well as Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Catholicism. There are also various Chinese folk beliefs and customs with thousands of years of historical traditions. The Muslim Squarer and the Great Mosque are very popular travel sites.  

Religions Venues for Religious Activities
 Chinese Traditional Religion  City God Temple (都城隍庙), Temple of Confucius in Xi'an (西安孔庙)
 Buddhism  Da Ci'en Temple(大慈恩寺), Daxingshan Temple(大兴善寺), Xingjiao Temple(兴教寺)Caotang Temple (草堂寺), 
 Taoism  Temple of Eight Immortals in Xi'an (八仙宫), Chongyang Palace (重阳宫)
 Christianism  Nanxin Street Church (南新街礼拜堂), Dongxin Lane Church (东新巷礼拜堂)
 Catholicism  Wuxing Street Christianity Church (五星街天主教堂), Tangfang Street Christianity Church (糖坊街天主教堂)
 Islam  Great Mosque in Xian (化觉巷清真寺)

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Traditional Xi'an Temple Fairs

Xi 'an is a city with a long history. Every Spring Festival, there are traditional temple fair activities to attend and experience the religion culture, and these activities are very wonderful and grand. The most popular ones such as Lantern Festival on the Ancient City Wall, Xi'an City God Temple Fair, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda Temple Fair, Tang West Market Temple Fair are your best choice for your Xi'an tour during the Spring Festival. For other temple fairs at other times and site please refer to the Further Reading below.

Further Reading: Temple Fairs in Xian 

Xi'an Architecture Culture 

Xi'an architecture culture is characterized by the complex of traditional Chinese style and modern architecture design, besides the landmarks in Xi'an such as the Terra-cotta Warriors, Gaint Wild Goose Pagoda, Bell Tower, Xi'an Ancient City Wall, there are also several new featured landmarks arising like Tang Paradise, Qujiang Tang Street,  Xian Olympic Sports Center and Xi'an Silk Road International Convention Center, etc. Visiting the architectures and buildings in Xi'an, you can appreciate the ancient architecture culture while witnessing the modern architecture technology blossoming in this ancient capital.

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda

The original pagoda was built during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of Tang (r. 649–683), then standing at a height of 60 m (177 ft). This construction of rammed earth with a stone exterior facade collapsed five decades later. The structure was rebuilt in 704 during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian, and its exterior brick facade was renovated during the Ming dynasty. The structure leans very perceptibly (several degrees) to the west, the tower sits inside the Daci'en Temple complex. The construction techniques used in Buddhist temple architecture in China and throughout East Asia are based on timber frames and bracketing systems that support large overhanging tiled roofs. The ingenuity of this system is that the size of the building can be altered by adding and repositioning the various posts that support the size of the roof, thus determining how tall and how wide the building is. The contemporary structure has been restored a number of times, although many of these restorations took place during the Tang, so overall the building remains essentially a Tang structure. Visitors can still climb the interior staircase to appreciate the surrounding view.

Xi'an Ancient City Wall 

At 12 meters high and 15 meters wide, the 14-kilometer-long Xi'an City Wall is the most complete ancient city wall in China, which encloses the 36-square-kilometer old Xi'an city center in a rectangular circuit. After the establishment of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) followed his advice and began enlarging the wall built initially during the old Tang dynasty (618 -907) creating the modern Xian City Wall. After the extension, the wall now stands 12 meters (40 feet) tall, 12-14 meters (40-46 feet) wide at the top and 15-18 meters (50-60 feet) thick at the bottom. It covers 13.7 kilometers (8.5 miles) in length with a deep moat surrounding it. For every 120 meters there is a rampart which extends from the main wall. In total there are 98 ramparts on the wall, which were built to defend them in case the enemy trying to climb up the wall. Initially, the wall was built with layers of dirt, with the base layer including also lime and glutinous rice extract. Throughout time the Xian City Wall has been restored three times. A circular park has been built along the high wall and the deep moat. The thriving trees and flowers decorate the classical Chinese architecture of the wall, another dimension to the city of Xian. It's also the most dramatic place to get an overall view of Xi’an city.

Read more about Xi'an Landmarks:

Xi'an Food Culture

Shaanxi cuisine makes elaborate use of ordinary materials, and is best known for its noodles and lamb/mutton dishes. Shaanxi cuisine uses more noodles than other Chinese cuisines, but Shaanxi noodles are almost always thicker and longer than those of Beijing cuisine, and to a lesser degree, Shanxi cuisine. The taste of Shaanxi cuisine can be quite spicy; however, this can be diluted by adding soy sauce.Xi’an food belongs to Guanzhong style of Shaanxi cuisine, which uses pork and lamb / mutton equally with heavy flavors and tastes. Among the local delicacies, Rou Jia Mo, Liang Pi and Ice Peak beverage are reputed as “set meal of Shaanxi”. Therefore, when you come to Xi 'an, you must try Paomo or Liangpi and then drink a bottle of Ice Peak soda, also the Biang Biang Noodles, typical food of Xi’an, is also worth trying, you can enjoy these famous Xi’an food in the Muslim Quarter, a snack street in Xian most popular among locals and tourists. There are also other cuisines in Xi'an, including Sichuan cuisine, Cantonese cuisine and foreign cuisines such as southeast Asia and Japan, etc. For more detailed information about Xi'an food, please refer to Xi'an Dining

Xi'an Folk Culture & Art

Xi 'an's folk arts have a long history and wide range of influences. With the representative ones as Qinqiang opera, paper-cut, Peasant Painting, together with Yangko, folk gongs and drums, shadow play, clay sculpture and other famous folk arts, Xi’an folk culture is blossoming both at home and abroad.

Guanzhong Dialect

The official language spoken here is a dialect of Zhongyuan Mandarin called Guanzhong dialect, also called Zhongyuan dialect, was once the official language of the four dynasties of Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang. In general, Guanzhong dialect is divided into Xifu dialect (Baoji, western Xianyang) and Dongfu dialect (Xi'an, Xianyang, Weinan, Tongchuan), which is the oldest language in China. Xifu Dialect 西府话 'Dialect of the western prefectures', which is spoken in the west of Xi'an, in Baoji of Shaanxi Province; Tianshui, Qingyang, Pingliang, Longnan of Gansu Province; and south of Guyuan of Ningxia Province, and Dongfu Dialect 东府话'Dialect of the eastern prefectures', spoken in Xi'an, Weinan, Tongchuan, Xianyang and Shangluo of Shaanxi Province. 

Shaanxi Qinqiang Opera

Qinqiang Opera, also known as Luantan and Bangzi Opera, was originated in the Yellow River Valley of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces in northwest China. Qinqiang Opera is a local opera that can be named as the Forefather of Chinese Operas, boasting the most ancient, affluent and largest musical system of all Chinese operas. Its repertoires usually feature such themes as anti-aggression wars, the fight between the loyal and the treacherous, and the struggles against oppression, as well as a number of other topics of strong human interest that reflect the honest, diligent, brave, and upright characteristics of the local people. On May 20, 2006, Qin Qiang was included in the First Batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Huxian Peasant Painting

Originated from the traditional folk arts such as paper cutting, embroidery and so on, Peasant Painting in Huxian County first appeared during the 1950s. The Huxian painters excelled in the portrayal of local and national heroes and deep-space landscapes for propaganda purposes; and a strong geometric organisation and repeated patterns, for decorative purposes. At the earlier stage, most paintings were focused on work. Now, peasants portray almost every aspect in their daily life. Feeding livestock, children playing, local operas, village traditions, ducks swimming, elders playing Chinese chess, and so on are all wonderful topics for painting. By using bright colors and fantastic style, peasants record their everyday life, the beautiful landscape, the great harvests and the busy festivals vividly. Some paintings are bold and unconstrained; some are strong and impassioned, while yet others are ornate and elegant. All of them have a naive charm, clear and full of the feeling of folk life. They contained concise close-ups of workers, peasants and soldiers, young or old, male or female, at work or engaged in some other meaningful activity, sometimes from posters that had already been published, and were intended to provide good examples of how to represent human beings in art. In all probability, these source-books were responsible for the stereotyped and standardised quality of the propaganda posters published in this period. 

Shaanxi Paper-cut

Paper-cut in northern Shaanxi is a precious cultural heritage of the Han nationality in China, and it is a wonderful work of Han folk art with the most cultural characteristics of frontier fortress. Nowadays, paper-cut is used as decorations, pasted on glass or hung at home to add festive atmosphere.

Cultural and Creative Products 

The ancient capital Xi 'an, popular destination among tourists at home and abroad, is distributed with many museums with various highlights. While marveled at national treasures, tourists are paying more and more attention to what they can "take away" in a museum besides historical civilization. The Cultural and Creative Products such as Shaanxi History Museum Calendar (陕博日历), Silver Incense Burner Replicas (复刻葡萄花鸟纹香囊) and Drawing Book Themed on Terra-cotta Warriors (兵马俑绘画本), etc are all worthy of buying during your shopping in Xi'an.

Read more about the Cultural and Creative Products

Han Chinese Clothing

Han Chinese clothing refers to the historical clothing styles of China, particularly those before the Qing dynasty. Han styles are noted by beautiful silk robes with each style of clothing denoting a different strata of society. Han Chinese clothing retained its simple and elegant style. The main characters of the clothing include "Y" shaped cross collar with the left one upon the right, no buttons, and string or belt fastening, giving a free and elegant feel. Royalty wore one style, academics and scholars another style, and members of the military class yet another style. Ancient Chinese clothing was also influential to other traditional clothing such as the Japanese kimono, yukata and the Vietnamese Áo giao lĩnh. Clothing styles made popular by the Han Chinese 3,000 years ago still remain popular in traditional Chinese fashion today. Today most Han Chinese wear western-style clothing, recent attempts by Hanfu advocates in China to wear Hanfu outdoors have provoked Chinese people's enthusiasm fro the Hanfu, Han Chinese clothing is presently worn  as a part of historical reenactment, festivals, hobby, etc, there are some Han Chinese clothing related activities held every year such as Tang Peony & Han Costume Festival, more and more Chinese youth choose to wear Hanfu during their leisure time.

Shaanxi China Time-honored Brands

  • Xifeng Liquor (西凤酒): It is an alcoholic Chinese drink made from barley and pea-flavoured baijiu and boasts a long history that dates to the Tang Dynasty and a rich cultural influence.
  • Bai Shui Du Kang (白水杜康): It is another well known China time-honored liquor brand in Shaanxi province originated in 1973.
  • Taibai Liquor (太白酒): A well known China time-honored liquor brand in Shaanxi province originated in 1956.
  • Xi'an Restaurant (西安饭庄):  Xi 'an restaurant, established in 1929, is a time-honored brand, listed companies, famous for its Shaanxi cuisine and Shaanxi local delicacies. It is reputed as the "landmark of the food culture of the Sanqin". 
  • Lao Sun Jia (老孙家): It is a time-honored restaurant brand in Xi' an,  which began in 1898 . It is famous at home and abroad for its Paomo in beef and mutton soup, local delicacies and halal dishes.
  • 369 Roast Duck (369烤鸭): It is a  time-honored Xi'an roast duck brand established in 1916.
  • De Fa Chang (德发长): Established in 1936, De Fa Chang is a time-honored Chinese brand. In 2010, its dumpling making skills were first listed on Shaanxi Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
  • Jia Yong Xin (贾永信): Established in 1622, it is famous for its dry-curied beef and mutton.
  • Jia San Baozi (贾三包子): It is established in 1998 and famous for its soup dumpling.
  • De Mao Gong (德懋恭): Established in Qing Dynasty (1872), it is a snack brand particularly famous for its crystal persimmon cake.

Historical and Cultural Attractions in Xi'an

Ancient capital of 13 dynasties, Xi'an has a long history and is abundant in its culture, making  the historical and cultural sites a highlight of Xi'an travel. The following historical and cultural attractions are the ones you can't miss during your Xi'an tour.

Main Museums in Xi'an

Xi 'an, once the ancient capital of China's 13 dynasties, is a famous national historical and cultural city with many historical and cultural relics, so there are many museums in Xi'an to keep the collections records of the history and culture. Shaanxi History MuseumForest of Stone Steles Museum and Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum are highly recommended ones.

Xi'an Ethnic Culture

There are 53 ethnic groups living in Xi'an, with the Hui Ethnic Minority taking up the largest proportion after the Han population. The followed ones are  ManchuHuiMongolKorean and Zhuang . The Hui ethnic culture is the mainly featured one in Xi'an city, presenting in its widespread food culture which can be seen in the Muslim Quarter and its religion belief exercised in the Great Mosque

Temple of Confucius in Xian

Temple of Confucius in Xian

Temple of Confucius in Xian...

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Qinqiang Opera in Shaanxi

Qinqiang Opera in Shaanxi

Qinqiang Opera in Shaanxi...

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History of Xian

History of Xian

As one of the world’s four famous ancient civilizations, Xi ‘an is a world famous historical and cultural city with a long history. Xian has a history of over...

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Xi’an wind and percussion ensemble–intangible heritage

Xi’an wind and percussion ensemble–intangible heritage

西安鼓乐  Xi’an wind and percussion ensemble Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity Xi’an wind and percussion ensemble, which has been played for...

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Huxian Peasant Painting in Xian

Huxian Peasant Painting in Xian

Basic Introduction of Huxian Peasant Painting Located 40 km (about 25 miles) southwest of Xi’an City, Huxian County was named the County of Painting by Ministry of Culture in 1988.  Now,...

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