On the glittering side of modern Xian, cafes are dotted here and there. A cup of latte can cost uo to 30 yuan (NZ$6). These places are seen as yuppie or trendy places to be and to be seen. To me, these places offered respite from the hustle and bustle of commerce; the dirt from the thick traffic and temporary shelter from the hazardous polluted air. Some of the coffee was good too. Xian is noticeably clean. Workers cleaned throughout the day and night. Late at night I watched a group of women cleaning the under passes.
Gao Family Mansion, about 400 years old, is the former residence of Gao Yuesong, an official of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) is one of the best-persevered traditional residences in Xi’an City. It is located on the busy Huimin Street (Beiyuanmen Street) in the Muslim Quarter. Stone lions guard the entrance. Once you enter the compound, the din of the street dissipates, and a sense of serenity prevails. There are several courtyards with ornately carved windows and decorated with traditional furniture. At one courtyard, a permanent opera style stage had been set up and today live music and singing. This experience is a small window to the past traditions. I waited to be surprised with food being offered. Perhaps, so tea to warm up in the cold air. Unfortunately, it was not forth coming. The show was good and entertaining.
The city god temple of Xian, Cheng Huang Miao was built in 1387 (Ming dynasty). It is also called the Capital City God and had looked after the welfare of the city since. Prayers to keep away bad deeds. However, during the cultural revolution, it was not spared. The entrance to this temple was crowded with people shopping either for worship at the Taoist temple or for presents for the coming Chinese New Year. There were candles, fragrant incense sticks, red packets as gifts for the new year celebrations, clothing, auspicious red lanterns and lattice wall hangings, and all the paraphernalia of welcoming the new year of the Dog. It felt more like festivities celebration than worship. Once you emerge from the flea market, tranquility returns and the smell of burning incense and joss stick over powers the smell of smog. The pious and worshipers move from one place of worship to another. There was another congregation huddled on one side of the temple entrance. I was curious. It was a serious game of Chinese chess. Families with kid in tow all visited this temple in droves. Red totems hung on wall with precious prayers and words written on them.