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Xi'an's Terracotta army and museum

semi-overcast 5 °C


Early the next morning, after we enjoyed some tasty and cheap egg and veggie buns from a local street vendor, we headed to the bus station looking for a bus bound for the terracotta warrior archaeological site. Using our trusty student cards, we acquired our discounted tickets and found a tour guide. The Terracotta army was built for the first Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang in 210-09 B.C. The Emperor believed the army would protect him in the afterlife.


We started in the largest of 3 pits which were uncovered by farmers in the 1970s while digging for a well. Entering the large warehouse looking building we were confronted by the terracotta warriors. Rows and rows of meticulously crafted soldiers stood in perfect formation just as they would have been placed thousands of years ago. Most of the warriors had been broken and had been pieced backed together not unlike a puzzle. Each face of the warriors was unique, and carefully carved. Apparently when the faces were being made, if someone had not done a good enough job, their own head would be cut off. This was serious business.


They had different ranked soldiers, archers, and even horses with wagons made of wood that long since rotted away. At the opposite side of the site, they had a reconstruction area where archaeologists were busy working on piecing together more warriors.


We next went to the 2nd pit. Pit 2 mostly contained infantry and cavalry statues. While significantly smaller than the first, it featured a small museum featuring some interesting pieces and a chance to get up close to some terracotta warriors.


Our guide quickly moved us through the 3rd pit, the smallest of the burial chambers. Pit 3 was the command centre and mostly had high ranking officials. At the end of our tour, our guide took us to the gift shop where she would receive some kind of bonus or commission for bring us. Slightly annoyed, we looked around and quickly left. Our guide then took us to a jade shop for a 10 minute briefing on the differences between real and fake jade. Clearly not interested we left and were lead to another identical jade shop for the same briefing. This tour guide certainly wasn’t getting a tip.

Included with our ticket to see the terracotta warriors was also a pass to go see Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum where a emperor was buried. Legend had it that it was rigged with booby traps and a river of mercury flowed through it. Also, all of the engineers who built it were buried along with the emperor taking with them the secrets of the mausoleum. The mausoleum had not been excavated but probes had shown a level of mercury in the soil showing some possible truth to the legend. A short bus ride later we arrived and walked along the mausoleum which was packed earth formed into a hill. We walked around the gardens which weren’t very impressive, probably because it was the beginning of December and everything was dead.


The next day we went the Xi’an provincial museum. After showing our passports and signing in we were given our free tickets. The museum had exhibits from pre-historic beginnings to modern day Xi’an. And of course, there was no escaping some more pottery, ceramics and bronze vessels. They even had some terracotta warriors on display and dioramas of burial sites located around the Xi’an area.


After the museum and picking up another tasty pomelo fruit, we got ready and dropped our humongous bags off at the train station. We walked around trying to find some food, eventually settling on some flavourless, flat circular bread form a Muslim food cart. We sat and ate in a creepy dark park area across from the McDonalds and train station. We then bordered our last sleeper train to our final destination in China, Beijing.


Posted by Sarah.M 20:00 Archived in China Tagged museum army xi'an terracotta provincial

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