Arriving in Xian and the Terracotta Warriors
Trip Start Jun 16, 2008
36Trip End Jul 20, 2008
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Xian is the capital of the Shaanxi province in the People's republic of China and a sub-provincial city. As one of the most important cities in Chinese history, Xi'an is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China because it has been the capital (under various names) of 13 dynasties, including the Zhou, Qin, Han, the Sui dynasty, and the Tang. Xi'an is also renowned for being the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and for the location of the Terracotta Army, made during the Qin Dynasty.
Xi'an became a cultural and industrial center of China in 11th century BCE, with the founding of the Zhou Dynasty. The capital of Zhou was established just west of contemporary Xi'an. Following the several century long Warring States Period, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE) unified China for the first time and the capital was Xianyang , just northwest from modern Xi'an. Before his death, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the construction of the Terracotta Army and his mausoleum which is located in the modern city's suburb.
The first stop was my hotel. I was delighted to find how nice it was. It wasn't an extravagant hotel, but compared to sleeping on trains and the other low class hotels, this was paradise. I had a great breakfast and a hot shower and despite not sleeping the night before I was ready to explore Xian.
Our first stop was Huaqing Pool Hotspring. It was at this location that during the Tang Dynasty the emperor would come to relax. There were many natural hot springs that had elaborate baths built around them. One was built for the emperor's favorite concubine and a large one for the emperor himself. And it was a beautiful setting with the mountains in the background. It is said that King You built a palace here during the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC-711 BC). Additions were subsequently made by the First Emperor Qing (259 BC-210BC) and Emperor Wu during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24). During his reign, the Emperor Xuanzong spent dizzying amounts of his funds to build a luxurious palace, changing its name to Huaqing Hot Spring or Huaqing Palace. Over the course of 41 years in his days, he visited the palace as many as 36 times. The palace thus has a history of 3,000 years and the hotspring a history of 6,000 years!
The next stop was one of the places I was anticipating the most in China...The Terracotta Warriors. It was here that China's very first emperor who had untied 6 states into the first unified China had built an army in the thousands of clay soldiers that would accompany him in the the next life. Not only was it amazing that he had created thousands of lifelife and lifesize warriors but each face was different! And there were cavalrymen, archers, generals, horsemen and more. It was quite a site!
The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses are the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Work is ongoing at this site, which is around 1.5 kilometers east of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum, Lintong County, Shaanxi Province. It is a sight not to be missed by any visitor to China.
Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC), Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, had begun to work for his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his after life. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. It caught the attention of archeologists immediately. They came to Xian in droves to study and to extend the digs. They had established beyond doubt that these artifacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC). Life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum. They are replicas of what the imperial guard should look like in those days of pomp and vigor.
The next stop was at Xian's Old City Wall. It still stands 2000 years later completely and is about 8 miles in perimeter. I walked along a little on top of the wall and even explored one of the watchtowers.
When Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), captured Huizhou, a hermit named Zhu Sheng admonished him that he should 'built high walls, store abundant food supplies and take time to be an Emperor,' so that he could fortify the city and unify the other states. After the establishment of the Ming dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang followed his advice and began to enlarge the wall built initially during the old Tang dynasty (618 -907), creating the modern Xian City Wall. It's the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. After the extension, the wall now stands 12 meters (40 feet) tall, 12-14 meters (40-46 feet) wide at the top and 15-18 meters (50-60 feet) thick at the bottom. It covers 13.7 kilometers (8.5 miles) in length with a deep moat surrounding it. Every 120 meters, there is a rampart which extends out from the main wall. All together, there are 98 ramparts on the wall, which were built to defend against the enemy climbing up the wall. Each rampart has a sentry building, in which the soldiers could protect the entire wall without exposing themselves to the enemy. Besides, the distance between every two ramparts is just within the range of an arrow shot from either side, so that they could shoot the enemy, who wanted to attack the city, from the side. On the outer side of the city wall, there are 5948 crenellations, namely battlements. The soldiers can outlook and shoot at the enemy. On the inner side, parapets were built to protect the soldiers from falling off.
At 7PM I arrived at a theater for the best dinner of the trip. It started with dumplings and chicken, followed by soup, and then deliciously battered shrimp and then pork and rice. For dessert were great tasting Chinese cookies. At 8:30PM in the theater I watched the Tang Dynasty show which was a recreation of the shows they did in the Tang Dynasty over 1000 years ago. The costumes and outfits were great and there was excellent Chinese instrumental music (most of which was played on instruments used then but not used anymore).
I arrived back to my hotel at 10PM to a comfortable bed.
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