The Silk Road 21 July 2017 10 1785
The ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative is a plan devised by the Chinese government to revive the famous Silk Road, an ancient trade route that connected China with the Eurasian continent. Besides building new infrastructure and creating conditions enabling local businesses to expand their reach, it is also expected to lead to an influx of tourists. In this programme, we visit some of the key cities on the Great Silk Road to take in their main attractions.
We begin our journey in the 3,100 year-old city of Xi’an, famous for its awe-inspiring terracotta army, which was discovered in 1974. Thousands of clay warriors here have been standing guard over the grave of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, since 210–209BC. Many will be surprised to learn that the majority of the vast underground burial grounds hasn’t been excavated yet, meaning the 8,000 soldiers already unearthed may be just a small part of this incredible sculpture ensemble.
Next, we sample traditional Chinese food, starting off with a lamb stew called paomo that is officially part of Chinese cultural heritage. We then move on to morning tea from Lanzhou, prepared according to the famous tea canon written by Lu Yu in the 8th century AD. We also experience the healing power of acupuncture in the town of Ürümqi, dubbed the “Gates to China,” and meet members of Yining’s Russian-speaking community, whose ancestors fled Russia after the 1917 revolution.
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Each of these ancient towns has a lot to offer adventurous travellers. The heritage left behind by the multicultural communities that lived along the ancient trade route boasts historic monuments and a wide variety of traditions, practices, and cuisines. Although very different, these towns are united by their common past as commercial hubs on the Silk Road and, now, they are once again becoming key outposts on the revived route. It is worth coming to China just to see these ancient towns, where the past meets the future.
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