Choosing a city in China to study was not easy. With so many massive cities (some twice as large as New York that most Americans have never even heard of), how do you decide? With some research, I landed on Xi'an.
In Xi'an, I stayed with a host family and took Chinese (Mandarin) classes. These classes helped me choose the correct restroom to enter. (See photo above). The food in Xi'an was exquisite. The favorite thing to eat in summertime is watermelon ("xigua," in Chinese). Malls are common everywhere. The Saga mall in Xi'an had eleven floors!
The ancient capital
In ancient times, Xi'an was called Chang'an, and it was the capital of the first united Chinese empire. Xi'an also has one of the best preserved ancient city walls. Outside the city, you can also see the famous Terracotta Warriors.
One night, I attended a spectacular outdoor theatre performance that showcased the "etiquette" of China's culture and even depicted scenes from history. Xi'an (whose name literally means "western city"), was the key junction point on the silk road that led westward out of China.
The Diversity of the East
Xi'an is also one of China's most diverse cities. There is a large Muslim population, for example. I met students at the mosque who were painting its architecture with watercolors. There are also Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist temples.
The Beilin Museum housed stone tablets with writing as well as pictures--the one shown above is both: a man drawn using Chinese characters, standing in a way that looks like the Big Dipper. He is Kui Xing, the mythological Chinese god of literary examinations. He is pointing his pen at the Big Dipper, symbolizing the good fortune of having one's name coming first in the imperial examinations (not an easy task!) The characters on the lower left of the tablet say: "Cultivate one's mind, improve one's character."