Huaqing Pool and Palaces
During the Tang Dynasty, the emperors and their consorts built palaces around the city of Chang'an, and the Huaqing Palace, below Lishan is one of the more complete, and, contrary to what the Lonely Planet Guide says, definitely worth a visit. It is not far from the Terracotta Warriors site, so an easy stop-over. However, the Huaqing Pools (Huaqingchi) deserves much more time: it is a succession of pools, pavilions and the possibility of climbing up the heavily wooded slopes of Lishan behind.
In the Zhou times, the emperors built a series of palaces making use of the hot water springs gushing out from the foot of the Lishan. Through history from then, emperors built and rebuilt the palaces for their summer use, making frequent use of the thermal springs. Recent excavations have discovered a number of old baths used by the emperoros, princes and other members of the royal family. These pools are recognisable from famous Tang poems written at the time, include the 'Lotus Flower Pool' and the 'Imperial Consort Pool'.
The whole complex is well planted, and is a relaxing place. There were few visitors during the May Golden Week, so I am not sure where the Lonely Planet's "crowds of visitors" were.
The smaller, upper pavilions have a more recent history, for it is here that Chiang Kai Shek was kidnapped by local Communists, in order to get hi to change his tactics away from attacking fellow Chinese and focus on defeating the Japanese occupation forces. He was asleep in his bedroom in the Wujianting when the complex was stormed on September 18th 1931, and one pane of glass has a bullet hole as a reminder. Initially he escaped, but was caught, in his pyjamas, hiding behind a pavilion on the woded slopes. This was the start of a seriously bad day for him, but eventually he conceded to the 'negotiations' and was released.