For over a thousand years the city of Xi’an was the capital of Imperial China. From behind those great city walls - which still stand - endless dynasties of emperors ruled the known world. It was to here that the caravans of the Silk Road wended their way. The glories of Venice, the mysteries of Central Asia, the splendours of Samarkand all arrived at the end of the Silk Road at the base of the Bell Tower in the centre of ancient Xi’an. Here the world gathered – the glass of Phoenicia, the silks of Cathay, the fragrances of Arabia, the spices of the distant islands, the teachings of the Buddha and of Zoroaster all finding here a place of exchange.
On a bleak winter’s morning I set out to find the Bell Tower – to reach the terminus of the Silk Road: the greatest and most romantic road that the world has known. I trudged in the lightly-falling snow through the great western gate of the city and on through the crowded streets towards the centre of the ancient city. This is the road that countless thousands of travelers and pilgrims and traders have travelled, joining the farthest west with the uttermost of the mysterious east.
And finally, frozen but elated I arrived.
I stood there silent, soaking in the scene before me – the point at which East truly meets West . . .
Bell Tower Square, Xi'an, People's Republic of China