The Army of Terracotta Warriors

Trip Start Jul 12, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Xi'an is like a different world from the other places we've visited in China so far - it looks and feels a bit poorer and more rundown, and also has a large Muslim population adding a more exotic feel. There are great things to see here as there's so much history, Xi'an being part of the old Silk Road trading route and a former capital of China.

The main drawcard here is the Army of Terracotta Warriors, an archaeological dig still in progress where around 6000 lifesize statues of warriors have been uncovered so far. Apparently their purpose is to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang. They were only discovered in 1974 when some peasants were digging a well and accidently found a huge underground vault containing the warriors, as well as chariots, weapons and statues of horses. They are still in the place where they were found (an hour or so out of Xi'an) but a huge building (like an aircraft hangar) has been built over the top of them. As well as the main site where most of the warriors are (around the size of a football field) there are two other smaller sites which are still being excavated. We bravely (or so we like to think!) shunned the more expensive day tours heading out there and caught the dirt cheap public bus which was surprisingly easy to do. It was an amazing sight to see and makes you wonder what else is out there waiting to be unearthed, as it took around 2000 years for all this to be discovered.

Other sites we visited include the 'Big Goose Pagoda', the Drum and Bell Towers in the centre of the city and the old Muslim Quarter. We went to the Great Mosque which was a beautiful collection of buildings in a garden with several different courtyards and a prayer hall at the end. It was in an area of colourful markets, muslim restaurants and lots of street activity. There were people stir-frying in woks, baking round bread, and selling different nuts, dried fruits and sweets. We bought these bizarre lollipop things off a man on the street who sprinkled them with raisons and lollies and other things, then steamed them and coated them in sugar. It was one of the most interesting areas of Xi'an and inspired us to go to the Middle East, but that'll be another adventure, another time.

We also finally succumbed to the meat-on-a-stick phenomena and tried some chicken skewers coated in chilli powder and barbequed. They were great! We wanted to head to Pingyao next but there were no train tickets for a few days, so we're off to a Beijing tonight on another epic train journey...
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