It was March 2013, when I first arrived in China, as part of a long term project I’ve been slowly working on with my wife. China is a huge country, our journey consisted around north, initially Beijing, but things changed when we decided to get a flight from Beijing to Xian, Shaanxi's province capital and one of the oldest towns of the country.
We had a unique, not exclusive, but very obvious intention, to see the worldwide famous Terracotta Army, dated back 210 b.C, made of terracotta, natural sized, buried with the emperor Qin Shi Huang for protection on his afterlife. What I didn't know is that I would fall in love by food and not by archaeological topics on the next days.
Arriving Xian, we were surprised by a heavy, dense smog, we could not see more than a couple of meters. I had read something about the dense pollution layer covering part of the country, due to heavy use of coal, industry concentration and chaotic traffic. Beside of this, a natural mist caused by semi-arid climate create dust storms this period of the year. All together makes the toxic air cocktail you have to breath in Xian.
The driver dropped us out on a crowded food smelling street, not exactly a good smelling but looking fantastic. We were fast to unpack the luggage at the small back door hostel, situated behind I don’t know exactly what was that place full of luggage. Everything was very confusing, so we just left our stuff at the room, grab our cameras and hit the street. The Muslim Quarter was working at full power, cutting, frying, grilling, hammering and cooking for a real alive Chinese army.
The whole place was like boiling. We were hungry and it was passion at the first look, the Muslim Quarter swallowed us alive.
I found out Chinese Muslims are the best cookers at northwest China, so we decided to stay inside the greatest food redoubt ruled by these people and that was for sure the greatest idea of this trip. I learned so much about feeding, that all my concept tears apart, with a whole new level of tastes. The only thing I regret was not to have tasted all that I could.
Yes, our feast was superb. Not every food seems appetizing for us but trying was a good surprise, this have become our main goal. Chinese are crazy about food, especially fresh food (sometimes alive food), although it may not smell or look good at a first glimpse, we trusted our hosts and kept going, everything was very delicious and certainly very spicy.
The feelings are so strong and that people have so many roots in that place, a few days are enough to put you inside their mood and you can witness big things like weddings or funeral in the middle of the street. People live their lives on the street at this big street food community.
At the end, the Warriors seemed boring. Very important to see, I loved them, but I was hurry to come back to the street, because I knew, there was the real thing.
Important things to know about Xian:
(yes you can also find these anywhere else the web)
- It is a sub-provincial city located in the center of the Guanzhong Plain in Northwest China. One of the oldest cities in China, Xi'an is the oldest of the Four Great Ancient Capitals, having held the position under several of the most important dynasties in Chinese history.
- Since the 1990s, as part of the economic revival of inland China especially for the central and northwest regions, the city of Xi'an has re-emerged as an important cultural, industrial and educational centre of the central-northwest region, with facilities for research and development, national security and China's space exploration program.
- The two Chinese characters "西安" in the name Xi'an mean "Western Peace".
- Much like Beijing 798 and Shanghai 1933, Xi'an has an art district called Textile Town, the district is not an actual town but derives its name from the many textile factories built there since the 1950s.
- Qinqiang (Voice of Qin) is the oldest and most extensive of the four major types of Chinese opera, has developed its own system of unique vocal music, spoken parts, facial makeup, posture, role, category and acting.
- Archaeological finds trace on the painted pottery unearthed at the ruins of the Neolithic site of Banpo Village near Xi’an showing the calligraphy brushes in its crude, primitive form was used and probablyh invented here 6,000 years ago. You can find a huge amount of calligraphy brushes on the Muslim Quarter.