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— by Gabrielle Li: When I think of Xi’an (known as Chang’an during Tang dynasty which ruled China from 618 to 907 A.D.), I recall the spicy breakfast soup that lifts people’s spirit after a long tiring day. Everything in that city feels strong, the brick walls, the street food, even the local bars bear a rough northwestern character. It is vigorous, unconstrained and down-to-earth.

Go back some 1400 years to the Tang dynasty China and this city of mouth-watering local cuisine and underground rock-n-roll was even wilder, more diversified and international than it is today. In all of human history, there was only a handful of capitals comparable to Chang’an, among which Athens and Rome. It is arguably the longest lasting cosmopolis, flooded with foreign envoys, visitors and officials speaking six different languages. And after binge watching Youku’s hit show The Longest Day in Chang’an I started wondering if Tang dynasty could have been China’s most liberal era…

Image: official poster of The Longest Day in Chang’an (2019), courtesy of Youku

July 13, 2019