Trip Start Feb 27, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Terracotta Warriors

Flag of China  , Shaanxi,
Monday, December 30, 2013

Since the Terra Cotta Warriors were discovered by farmers trying to dig a well in 1974, tourists have been flocking to Xi'an to see for themselves the giant army that Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, built for himself to be protected in the afterlife. Although I have seen the warriors twice already, I was still excited as I boarded the overnight train to Xi'an.
The train station in Beijing is seeing Beijing at its most crowded. We were like ninjas as we surveyed the area, detected people possibly readying themselves to leave their seat, and had the determination of a hungry lion as we pounced on those empty seats.  In the end, 6 of 8 members of our group were able to nab a seat.  This travelling group was Mum, Dad, Laura, Hayley and the Medleys: Karen, Steve and James.
We arrived in Xi'an the next morning, and we were greeted at the train station by our guide who took us to get some breakfast before we headed off to see the warriors.
We had to stop off at one of those obligatory shops where they give you a tour of a factory and you're supposed to buy up big on fake life-sized warriors.  All I got from that tour is that I would really love to have a job in the future where I don't have to wear my outside jacket inside, because it doesn't look comfortable working when it's so cold inside.
The actual warriors were fascinating.  Even having seen them before, the sheer magnitude of effort that Emperor Shi Huang underwent to 'protect himself' is mind blowing.  He must have been terrified of death or the things that were beyond his control, so he 'prepared' himself as well as he could. Despite his search for the elixir of immortality, he did eventually die (some theories include that he died from ingesting mercury from the pills promising immorality, others suggest that his brother had him poisoned), and he was buried with his 'army'.
The first pit is said to contain over 6000 soldiers.  There are many soldiers who are still to be put back together as they were damaged over the 2000 years.  The third pit contained the best-preserved soldiers, who were arranged in a meeting area, perhaps to give animal sacrifices.
Laura made the keen observation that how could something this big have been forgotten about, lost in history?  How was it not written down or remembered or passed down to new generations? Apparently many books were burned by Qin Shi Huang, and though people or centuries had found a small piece of terracotta as they were digging, nobody really thought anything of it until the farmers found them all.
After lunch, we went to the Xi'an city wall.  The wall is 12-14 meters wide, so it is very popular to walk around on, or ride bikes. It is also over 13km in length, so we decided to hire bikes. The best kind of biking? Tandem biking! It may look ridiculous, but it really is the most fun way to bike. We played around, like it was musical tandems-- swapping partners and playfully competing with each other as to which partnership was the quickest.  Unfortunately, I was the slowest, but I blame that on my unforgiving skinny jeans.
In Xi'an, we also went to the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, which was built in 652 A.D, with a height reaching 64.7 meters. It is 7 story's high, and each platform gets smaller the higher you go. The pagoda was built originally to preserve the Buddhist sutras, figurines and relics brought to China from India via the Silk Road. It has definitely achieved its purpose; it is still standing, and preserving some special relics. The steps going up are a little creaky, but you can't expect much less from a 1361 year old building.  The view from the high levels was pretty amazing, as well.  It is so unfortunate that this view, and many others in China are hindered by the high pollution levels, which limit how much you can see.  I imagine that on a clear day, you would be able to see for many hundreds of meters away.  
The Bell Tower is the other important monument in Xi'an, having been reporting the time since 1384 AD. It is in the middle of a crazy roundabout, like the Arc de Triomphe, but that is about where the similarities end. I'm forever intrigued by the architectural differences between Asia and Europe, especially with the use of colours.  A place like the Bell Tower is mostly red, an auspicious colour, but other bright colours weren't shied away from in detailing around the place. We also got to see a bell-playing show, but it's not essential viewing-- I don't think the performers were very experienced.
My two days in Xi'an were definitely a lot of fun- revisiting some monuments, and seeing others for the first time.  It's still fantastic to revisit a place with someone who has never been before, as you can see the place through their view, maybe see somethig you hadn't noticed before, and share in their excitement too.
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Lyn on

Great description; it brought back many memories. Thanks.

Joan Jay on

I only received this on my email today. Received one from Harbin first. Don't know what went wrong, but glad I eventually got it. The photos are good and will be nice to look back on. I think the "warriors" must be one of the world's wonders. Thank you Mr. Emperor. See you soon...love nanna

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