(Dec 20): It is getting too cold for tourists in Xi’an, so the pressure has come off the terracot- ta warriors. However, the cold does not stop the nightly flood of visitors to the Great Tang Mall stretching south from the Big Wild Goose pagoda, where the first Buddhist scripture in China was translated for the Tang dynasty court. The mall stretches over two city blocks and is dominated by stately statues of former emperors and Tang poets such as Li Bai and Du Fu.

Unashamedly designed for tourists, it also captures a Chinese cultural outlook. In mid-December, the throngs of Xi’an residents, free from tourists, provide some perspectives that are easily overlooked by visitors.

This night, at the southern end of the mall, the giant LED screen is showing what many foreigners would class as a propaganda film. It extols the virtues of Xi’an and the progress it is making as a terminus of both the ancient and new Silk Road. It is outright publicity for the inland rail port and free trade zone.

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