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article image2015 'Silk Road Tourism Year' starts in China's Shaanxi Province

By Karen Graham     Jan 10, 2015 in Travel
Inspired by the Ancient Silk Road, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) each year promotes a Western province focusing on their tourism appeal and rich cultural traditions. This year northwest China's Shaanxi Province is in the spotlight.
The kickoff of the 2015 Silk Road tourism year took place on Thursday in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, Considered one of the cradles of Chinese civilization, Shaanxi Province has been the capital of no less than 13 feudal dynasties, from the Zhou Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty, a span of 1,100 years.
Shaanxi is also the Eastern terminus of the Silk Road. From here it leads to Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Africa. The focus behind the year-long tourism campaign is to attract more visitors to the ancient Silk Road, China's link to central Asian nations.
Southeastern part of Xi an  showing Erhuan Road.
Southeastern part of Xi'an, showing Erhuan Road.
"The Silk Road tourism year will facilitate regional cooperation, deepen mutual understanding, and establish mutually beneficiary ties for all related nations," said Du Jiang, deputy director of the CNTA.
The Silk Road was a network of routes
The Silk Road dates back to the Han Dynasty, (206 BC – 220 AD), when caravan routes were built linking the ancient world in commerce. It was under the Han Dynasty, about the 1st Century BCE that the Northern terminus of the Silk Road was expanded from Xi'an, the Han Dynasty capital into the Taklamakan Desert in order to reach the ancient kingdoms of Parthia, Bactria and later, Persia.
Extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route.
Extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
The northern Silk Road was not used for commerce alone, but also for military purposes and cultural exchange. Not only was this route the northernmost route, but it was 1,600 miles in length. The Taklamakan Desert is dangerous to cross, just as it was in ancient times. While there is a modern highway crossing the desert today, long ago, merchant caravans depended on many oasis towns. Today those towns are nothing more than ruins.
Shaanxi Province Cultural attractions
Shaanxi Province has many cultural, historical and culinary wonders. Like Beijing 798 and Shanghai 1933, Xi'an also has an art district, called Textile Town. It's not really a town, but an area of the city that used to be textile mills, but now, the area supports art workshops and shows.
Qinqiang Opera is the oldest and most diverse of the four major types of Chinese opera, and is the main type of drama in Shaanxi Province. It can be traced back to Xi Qinqiang of the Qin dynasty and has influenced many branches of Chinese Opera. Xi'an is also home to a number of Chinese film directors and has many premier movie theaters.
Shaanxi Province is noted for a number of culinary dishes that originated back in its history. One culinary treat is Biángbiáng noodles. The noodles are touted as one of the "ten strange wonders of Shaanxi." Biángbiáng noodles are thick, like a belt and were part of the poor man's meal in the countryside. Now, because of the characters in the name, they have become quite "trendy" in many restaurants.
Traditional Biang Biang Mian.
Traditional Biang Biang Mian.
Gary Soup
The Historical Shaanxi Province
Xi'an has many historical monuments, making it one of the premier tourist destinations in China. Some of the sites are ongoing archaeological digs, like the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang and his Terracotta Army. The Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor was under construction for 38 years, from 246 to 208 BC. Neither the tomb or the terracotta army have been completely excavated due to their large size.
Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Bill Tyne
Another beautiful attraction is the Bell Tower. Built in 1384 during the early years of the Ming Dynasty, it is symbolic of Xi'an and is considered the grandest bell tower in all of China. The tower was damaged in a severe earthquake during that period, and the repair of the tower became a legend. According to the story, there was a great river flowing through the center of Xi'an, and a great dragon lived in the river. The dragon was always very rambunctious, and always causing trouble.
It came to pass that a great earthquake occurred, and a city official, believing the dragon was responsible, ordered the city's blacksmiths to make a heavy chain several thousand feet long with which to wrap the dragon and sink it in the river. He then ordered that 5,000 workmen quickly repair the Bell Tower in order to restrain the dragon. He believed that the Bell Tower holding the chain-laden dragon under the river would keep him from causing trouble. It must be true, because Xi'an has never had an earthquake since that time.
The Bell Tower at night.
The Bell Tower at night.
Maros M r a z
But for those tourists who are real adventuresome, a trek through the Taklamakan desert, following the Northern Silk Road route for a short distance might be interesting. It is the second largest shifting sand desert in the world, covering an impressive 337,600 Square Kilometers in area.
Just one of the many ruins found along the Northern terminus of the ancient Silk Road. (Screen grab ...
Just one of the many ruins found along the Northern terminus of the ancient Silk Road. (Screen grab from video)
International Dunhuang Project
Not only is Xi'an a beautiful city, but it is a fabulous tourist destination for world travelers. But the real treat is the historical sites that abound, not only in Xi'an itself, but in following the Silk Road. The region is rich in the history of the early dynasties that ruled China, and amazingly, the well-preserved monuments, mausoleums and pagodas are witness to that time.
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