Tag: xi’an

China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an is here!

xi'an new coverWe’re pleased to announce the release of China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an, available for download now in the iBooks Store!

Xi’an, Chang’an, Xianyang; known together as one of China’s Four Ancient Capitals and a fascinating crossroads in the heart of China. Now right from your iPad or Mac you can experience the awe of the first Chinese empires, bask in the glory of the Tang dynasty capital Chang’an, travel the Silk Road, discover a rich tapestry of ancient mosques, pagodas, and temples, and eat up Xi’an’s famous noodles and street foods.

China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an is the most in-depth and useful China Tea Leaves yet, exploring Chinese history and the rich influences you will discover in this grand city. We’ve also included more local resources, maps, and audio phrases specific to visiting Xi’an.

Download China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an today, and explore this Ancient Capital on your iPad or Mac!


celebrate the art of the horse in xi’an

The impressive Shaanxi History Museum in Xi’an has opened a special exhibit of spirited horse figures to celebrate the New Year of the Horse. They will be on display until April 25, 2014, so visit this Spring of the Horse to catch them. You can see more of the exhibit of cultural and artistic relics here, and visit the museum’s website here.

For lots more information about visiting Xi’an, stay tuned to download China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an, which will be available on iBooks any day now. Check back soon for the latest news about its release and visiting Xi’an!

spring festival is on its way

lanterns stringing

Spring Festival (春节 chūnjié), or Chinese New Year, is fast approaching on January 31. If you’re in China, this means kids are already out of school, department stores are fully decorated with red lanterns and budding trees, shoppers stock up on gift baskets, fruits, and baijiu, the classic white liqueur, and everybody’s already a little bit on vacation, mentally anyway. The preparations really kick up a notch starting today, the beginning of the xiaonian, (小年), the final week before the new year.

If you are in China before or during the Chinese New Year, you will enjoy a festive mood and be able to join in the special preparations and celebrations. Here are a few unique events and festivals you can experience before, during, and after the start of the new year.

Make niangao (sticky new year cake) and dumplings at a traditional folk fair in Tangqi Ancient Village outside of Hangzhou.

Visit the temples of Shanghai to ring the monumental bells for luck and pray for an auspicious year.

 Wrap up your Spring Festival at the Lantern Festival, the fifteenth day of the New Year, at Tang Paradise in Xi’an, and take a special walk around the City Wall to enjoy the brightly lit lanterns, towers, and rooftops.

The seven-day official holiday will start on January 31, but, like Christmas or New Year’s in the west, family celebrations really begin with the happy time anticipating the holiday and getting ready. This Year of the Horse (马年 mǎ nián) we say with special excitement, 马上春节回家!(Mǎshàng chūnjié huíjiā) – Very soon Spring Festival will return to our home!

Check back next week as we get ready for the New Year and the release of China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an!



a wall with gates to the past


Xi’an’s second best known treasure, after the Terra Cotta Warriors, is its intact city wall. Most of the structure dates to the Ming dynasty, but stretches of its foundations were part of the great Tang dynasty (618-907) fortification. The golden period of the Tang based its capital here, named Chang’an (长安). After the end of the empire, the capital later moved to Beijing, and the first Ming emperor built Xi’an’s current walls in the late 14th century.


The city walls that remain today measure about 2.8 miles east to west by 1.6 miles north to south. It is popular to walk or ride bikes along the top of the wall or the whole perimeter. Pass through one of the majestic entry gates and gaze over dozens of watch towers, and you will have no doubt you are in an imperial city.

In China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an we’ll explore the city wall and unique landmarks that still exist inside. Check it out on January 30!

xi’an’s noble steeds in the year of the horse


2014, Year of the Horse, will mark the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the past century, Xi’an’s Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses.

The thousands of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses symbolically protect the tomb of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇). There may be no more famous horses in all of China’s five thousand years of history.


Horses served the emperor in life and symbol as much as his loyal soldiers, and so they make up an important part of his necropolis. Here you can see terra cotta horses in formation with the warriors, and pulling bronze chariots. The life-size terra cotta horses stand ready to march, strong in stature, with finely groomed manes and tails. In a separate area close to the emperor’s tomb mound, bronze chariots and teams of horses were found, painted white and decorated with fine metals and ornate bridles. The Qin dynasty even created special stone armor for their noble steeds entering battle, also seen at the museum.

Read more about Xi’an this month, and this Chinese New Year, January 31, download China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an to learn more about the Terra Cotta Warriors and plan your trip for the Year of the Horse!

saddle up for the year of the horse


2014 is off to a start, and at the end of the month, we will welcome the Year of the Horse (马年 ma nian). In the Chinese Zodiac cycle, the Horse is full of energy and ready to go, making this new year an auspicious time to travel. And what better place to see this Year of the Horse than the Middle Kingdom?

That’s why we’re happy to announce the release of China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an on iBooks this Chinese New Year. Xi’an is one of the four ancient capitals of China, home to the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, and the center of a region with a history as fascinating and complex as ancient Rome.

We’ll be exploring this city’s treasures in the few weeks leading up to Chinese New Year on January 31, so check back often for tidbits about Xi’an’s dynastic past, its rich cultural crossroads, and the best dishes in Xi’an worth crossing a continent for.

Kick off your new year and travel the world with China Tea Leaves! Fully interactive and illustrated, with vivid cultural insights and locations hand-picked by China-based expats, our guides share the rich history and traditions of this amazing place.

where to say goodbye to the year of the snake


On January 30 we will say goodbye to the Year of the Snake, and welcome the Year of the Horse. Snakes in China have a bit of a bad reputation—a lowly creature, overshadowed by its popular relative, the Dragon. But a few snakes are also some of the most intriguing characters in Chinese folklore. Here are some special places in China to ring out the old year and celebrate these Snakes one last time.


One beloved snake is Lady White Snake (白娘子 bai niangzi) or Bai Suzhen (白素贞), the heroine of one of the most famous legends in China. Her story takes place around the beautiful West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Visit the Broken Bridge, where she first met her love, Xu Xian, and climb the Leifeng Pagoda, where legend holds she is trapped for eternity.

To read more about the visions of West Lake and the full story of Bai Suzhen, download China Tea Leaves 杭州 Hangzhou today!


Another interesting snake in Chinese culture is Nüwa, who was the daughter of the Jade Emperor and in some ancient myths created animals and humans from clay. She and her husband Fuxi were both snakes, as shown in this panel from the Shaanxi History Museum in Xi’an. A local legend says that Lishan, or Black Horse Mountain near the site of the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xi’an, was where Nüwa repaired the Wall of Heaven after a flood caused by a quarrel between the gods.

Check back soon as we get ready to welcome the Year of the Horse, and find out more about our upcoming release of China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an!

photo of the day


Dragon relief at the Daci’en Temple in Xi’an, Shaanxi province. The Daci’en Temple (大慈恩寺 Temple of Great Mercy and Kindness) holds the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, an important Tang dynasty Buddhist site in China.

dish of the day – biang biang mian


While I work on the upcoming Xi’an book, I find myself craving some of the unique dishes of Xi’an cuisine. Biang biang mian is a special handmade noodle dish with a simple but delectable ground spice topping. “Biang” is an onomatopoeia for the sound the flat, wide noodle makes as it is stretched by hand and slapped against the counter. This simple sounding word is actually one of the most complex Chinese characters still in use, with 57 strokes. “Biang” is so unique that it cannot even be typed or found in the dictionary. The name of the famous dish can be seen on this restaurant sign in Xi’an (two “biang” characters repeated before 面 miàn, which means noodles).


Top noodles with a bit of Chinese greens, a little soy sauce, Zhenjiang or Chinkiang vinegar, and mushroom or chicken stock, providing just a few ounces of liquid for each serving. Roast some whole sichuan peppercorn, cumin seed, fennel seed, star anise, and ground red chili in a dry pan. Sprinkle the spices over the noodles, and drizzle some hot peanut oil over the top to release the flavors of the spices, and serve with peanuts and chopped green onion. Even if you do not make your own noodles by hand, the flavours of Xi’an can easily be conjured in your own kitchen.