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Xi'an's Terracotta army and museum

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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 Comments (0)


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We arrived in chilly Xi’an via sleeper train mid afternoon. We were both pretty exhausted having not slept well due to our screaming baby neighbour on the train bunks. We exited the grimy train station and made our way to the bus stop. Luckily, there were some English speaking locals who helped us get to our accommodation.


Since we wouldn’t be spending much time in Xi’an, we decided to take the metro and visit the old city walls despite the evening’s chilly bite. Using our “valid” student cards to score some cheap admission tickets, we entered the large, completely restored, old city walls of Xi’an. Built in 1370 during the Ming Dynasty, the 13.7 km long walls contain about 14 square kilometers of real estate. The city has grown considerably since the original walls were built; now the walls were filled with only a small portion of the city. Arches had been cut into the walls allowing roads with busy traffic to pass through freely. The fortified wall was built with a fake entrance, where the attacking armies would think they’d gained access inside, only to run into to a dead end. The defending army could then easily ambush the trapped attackers.


Walking inside we caught the end of a performance of men dressed in traditional army uniforms marching and doing drills to some epic battle music. Excited local tourists ran up immediately after to have their photos taken with the performers. We climbed up some narrow steps to reach the top of the wall to be greeted by a freezing wind. Despite the cold, we saw some tough locals and few foreigners ride the rented bicycles and the ever adorable, tandem bicycles, around the 13.7 kilometer long wall. They also had battery cars for those too lazy to walk it.

The wall was lined with red lanterns hanging from street poles and speakers playing the soothing Chinese traditional instrumental music. We headed West along the ancient wall to watch the sun set through Xian’s modern skyline. After the sun went down the lanterns and temples nestled on the top of the walls lit up beautifully.


We walked for over an hour we and climbed down the wall to try our luck at finding food in the nearby Muslim district. We eventually found a build-your-own pita type food cart that you could fill with just about anything. After we devoured our tasty pitas, we visited Chinese Wal-Mart and picked up some snacks which included Great Value Pringle like chips from Canada, Delicious.

Posted by Sarah.M 20:23 Archived in China Tagged walls xi'an cold Comments (0)

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