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Weekend wander in the eternal city

By Wang Shanshan and Lin Jinghua in Xi'an | China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-09 10:31
[Photo provided to China Daily]

A couple of days in Xi'an can be enough to take in the sights and sounds of this historic former capital - but watch out for those seductively delicious noodles.

The sun pierces the lattice of a wooden shutter to illuminate a corner of the room where a man and a woman sit writing at a desk. Behind them, in the shadows enveloping the rest of the room, sit 20 stone steles from centuries long gone.

This is one of the rooms in a building in the Stele Forest, a huge garden that has been housing stone steles since 1087. Scholars of the time had the garden built to protect the steles - historical and religious records carved onto stone pillars - from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which were ravaged by continuous wars at the end of the dynasty and beyond its fall. The garden has remained in use ever since.

Covering 31,900 square meters, the garden is situated just outside the ancient city walls of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, and is surrounded by a labyrinth of small alleys. It contains more than 1,000 stone steles and one of the best-known ones internationally that was completed in 781, recorded the spread of the Nestorian Christian monks from the Eastern Roman Empire to China during the Tang era.

There were only a few dozen tourists when we visited, and the Stele Forest with its old trees and wooden houses scattered under the autumn sun, gave us a warm, peaceful feeling as soon as we entered.

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