Xi'an Things to Do Tips by Willettsworld
Xi'an Things to Do: 555 reviews and 1,249 photos
The Great Mosque in Xian is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China. According to historical records engraved on a stone tablet inside, this mosque was built in 742 AD during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). This was a result of Islam being introduced into Northwest China by Arab merchants and travellers from Persia and Afghanistan during the mid-7th century when some of them settled down in China and married women of Han Nationality.
Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, the Great Mosque of Xian is completely Chinese in its construction and architectural style, except for some Arabic lettering and decorations, for the mosque has neither domes nor traditional-style minarets. Occupying an area of over 13,000 square meters, the Great Mosque is divided into four courtyards, 250 meters long and 47 meters wide with a well-arranged layout featuring landscaped gardens. The mosque is a must-see-thing whilst in Xian.
Admission: RMB12 (includes a small pocket-sized guidebook).
Address: 30 Huajue Lane
The Famen Pagoda collapsed on 24th August 1981 when one side it fell down leaving the other half still standing. A photo of this can be seen in the temples museum. In 1986, it was decided that it should be rebuilt and in late February 1987, people began to check the pagodas foundations. On 3rd April 1987, they discovered an underground crypt which stored some Tang dynasty treasures that included gold and silverware, coloured glaze ware, porcelain and silks. But the most significant find was a finger bone of Sakyamuni. There is a photo of the crypt without the pagoda on top of it in the museum.
These seven gold, silver and jade boxes were used to preserve the finger bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha and were discovered in the underground "palace" or crypt after the Famen Pagoda collapsed in 1981. The finger bone was preserved in the last box, each enclosing each other, wrapped in thin silk. The outer box was made from sandalwood and had rotted away, but the smaller boxes were either gold or silver with one made from jade.
This bronze top fell off the top of the Famen Pagoda when it collapsed on 24th August 1981. There is an inscription on it that reads "Built in the 37th year of Ming's Wanli period (1809)".
The Famen Temple Museum was established in 1987 after gold and silver items were found in the underground "palace" or crypt after the Famen Pagoda collapsed in 1981. Four relics claiming to be directly related to Buddha were found. Two of these were made of white jade. The third relic was from a famous monk. These three are called "ghost relics" and were placed together with a "true relic" in order to protect them. The true relic was yellow-coloured, with bone-like granules. It was declared by experts to be the finger bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha. The finger bone was preserved in the last of eight boxes, each enclosing each other, wrapped in thin silk. The outer box was made from sandalwood and had rotted away, but the smaller boxes were either gold or silver with one made from jade. Each box had a silver lock and was exquisitely carved. These boxes can be found in the museum (see next tip) along with other items such as coloured glaze ware, porcelain and silks.
Famen Temple's famous 13-tiered octagonal pagoda, known as the True Relic Pagoda, was built in 1579 but was not the first to be built within the temple. The first was built in 631 by a man named Zhang Liang. This was then rebuilt in 660 as a four-storied pavilion-like pagoda. The pagoda became famous on the 24th August 1981 when one side it fell down leaving the other half still standing. A photo of this can be seen in the temples museum. In 1986, it was decided that it should be rebuilt and in late February 1987, people began to check the pagodas foundations. On 3rd April 1987, they discovered an underground crypt which stored some Tang dynasty treasures that included gold and silverware, coloured glaze ware, porcelain and silks. But the most significant find was a finger bone of Sakyamuni Buddha.
The Famen Temple is located about 120km (75 miles) west of Xian and is renowned for storing the veritable Finger Bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha. The temple was first established during the Northern Zhou Dynasty (557-581), by Emperor Huan and also by Emperor Ling of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) as a centre for carrying forward Buddhism. However, the temple was then completely destroyed when Buddhism was suppressed but was rebuilt again during the Sui Dynasty (581-618). Its glory days came during the Tang dynasty (618-907) when a pagoda was built. This was then rebuilt several times over the centuries until the temples famous 13-tiered octagonal pagoda was built in 1579. The temple buildings have also been rebuilt several times and what you see today was mostly built in the Qing dynasty and modelled on buildings from the Song dynasty.
The temple became famous in 1981 after half of its pagoda collapsed to reveal a hidden treasure trove of gold and silver items stored underground in its "palace" or crypt. This also included the actual finger bone of the Sakyamuni Buddha which was stored in eight boxes. These items can be seen on display in a museum housed in one of the temple buildings. Famen Temple was the last stop on my Western Tour from Xian.
At the foot of the famous Qianling tomb, there is a reconstruction of the ancient village known as "The First Village". It used to serve as the village of the skilful craftsmen who constructed the Qianling Tomb. You can witness how the buildings would have looked at the time plus feel the simple and happy rural life that once happened here.
Leading into the mausoleum is a "Spirit Path", which is flanked on both sides with stone statues like the later tombs of the Song Dynasty and Ming Dynasty Tombs near Beijing. The Qianling statues include horses, winged horses, horses with grooms, lions, ostriches, officials, and foreign envoys. The khan of the Western Turks presented an ostrich to the Tang court in 620 and the Tushara Kingdom sent another in 650. As well as these, there are 61 statues of foreign diplomats sculpted in the 680s that are said to represent the "far-reaching power and international standing" of the Tang Dynasty. These statues, now headless, represent the actual foreign diplomats who were present at Emperor Gaozong's funeral.
This tablet measures 7.53 meters high and weighs some 98.8 tons. Eight entwined dragons are carved on its top which indicate the grandeur and mystery of the Qianling Tomb. No words were inscribed on its surface when it was made in the Tang dynasty (618-907) but some visitors have left remarks in the Song and Jin dynasties.
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