Article by Martin Zhao
Xi’an as a city where ancient wisdom meets modernity, and where tradition coexists with the vogue. It is fantastic for photography. Whether you are a professional photographer with all the lenses and gear or an amateur photographer with only your phone as equipment, there are many good places to take photos. Whether you enjoy landscape photography or photographing interesting people, the diverse landscape of Xi’an has something to offer.
As an amateur photographer myself, I would like to introduce you to some of these good places in Xi’an with example photos taken with my phone. I hope these suggestions will be helpful for your photography.
Xi’an Muslim Quarter
With a bustling night market vibe and a rich historical architecture, the Muslim Quarter offers a wide variety of images to capture. Expect tight quarters and crowded streets if you remain on the main street, especially at night when the foot traffic is at its highest. Great place to work on your night photography.
Things that can be photographed may include:
• The food and food vendors: pao mo, liang pi, nang, desserts… the list is long.
• The people: woman wearing headscarves, man wearing white taqiyah, families on holiday, lots of people eating
• The architecture: The Great Mosque, The Little Mosque, 高家大院 home of a Qing dynasty official, many alleyways with interesting lighting.
The City Wall
Though this one should seem obvious, there are many different aspects to the Xi’an City Wall, from the many faces of the park surrounding the walls, to the gates and battlements. Trying different angles and framing, both from the wall and from the ground offers a great chance to practice landscape photography.
a) City Wall at Han Guang Men in the afternoon;
b) Bars and streets inside the city wall at night;
c) Western south part of the city wall in the afternoon;
d) North part of city wall in the evening;
Speaking of the City Wall, if you want to incorporate water into your photography, the moat around the city wall offers a decent chance for this, as the waters are generally still and can offer interesting reflections to include in your photography. There are several places where you can get closer to the water to achieve this effect.
Qin Ling Mountains
The mountains, the dividing South China and North China, contain a great variety of plants, rocks, animals etc., including elusive pandas and other rare animals, though these are harder to catch without professional equipment. This is a great place to practice your landscape photography, and the many natural parks and other views offer many options for photographing natural settings, from the misty waterfalls of Taiping Valley to the mountain peaks of Mount Hua. Different seasons will also yield different photographs in the same place.
Temples are a good place to take photos for their unique architecture and religious iconography. While there are many temples throughout the city, try checking out the Tibetan Buddhist Temple located in the northwest corner of the city wall for its brightly colored murals and interesting layout. Honorable mentions for the Temple of the City God on West Street and the Eight Immortals Temple close to East Gate. Shooting at different times of day will give you dramatically different photos.
The Big Goose Pagoda
The Big Goose Pagoda and the surrounding areas provides a wide variety of views for such a compact space. The north square is currently less photogenic than it used to be, but the parks flanking either side of the pagoda, the Buddhist park and the Shaanxi Cultural Park, offer lots of interesting statues and other oddities to photograph. This is also a great place to photograph people, especially on weekends when the volume and variety of people greatly increases. The Great Tang All Night City south of the pagoda offers opportunities for crowd photography and there are nightly performances to photograph as well during the busy seasons.