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By Perri Klass

On the “Muslim Street” in the Chinese city of Xian stands a bronze tableau in honor of street food. There, on a crowded lane packed with stalls selling Islamic-Chinese cuisine — lamb dumplings, mutton soup, pancakes and mung bean noodles — tourists can pose with statues of a soup seller and his customers. It’s a photo opportunity that brings together Xian’s two most famous tourist drawing cards: life-size human replicas and superb dumplings.

Each year, thousands of tour groups swing through Xian in the central part of the country, one of the four ancient capitals of China. The main draw is the site housing 8,000 buried terra-cotta warriors, the life-size standing figures that Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China, ordered to be created and buried to guard his tomb and fight his battles in the imperial afterlife. It’s perfectly possible to zoom in and out of Xian, stopping only to see the warriors in their open-air museum, and be served the characteristic “dumpling feast”: a high-end celebration of local dumpling culture that can include dozens of morsels, savory and sweet; fried, steamed and boiled; some shaped like leaves, others like flowers and frogs. [Read more…]