The Terracota Warriors of Xi'an

Trip Start Aug 12, 2010
Trip End Sep 23, 2011

Flag of China  , Shaanxi,
Friday, June 17, 2011

Hello all,

Xi'an was once home to emperors, courtesans, poets, monks, merchants and warriors but despite the old glory days being over Xi'an is still renowned for its ancient city ambience. This is mainly diue to the fact that the historic walls that surround the city still remain intact as well as the 14th century Bell and Drum Towers that loom over the city centre. We were particularly interested by the narrow backstreets of the 7th century Muslim Quarter which are still bustling and crowded with hawkers and amazing local street eats.

We arrived in Xi'an after another 19 hour sleeper train from Chengdu very tired but we were convinced by our Chinese roommate, Vanessa, to take a guided tour around the city - for free so she could practice her English!  After visiting the Shaanxi Museum we ate traditional Shaanxi cuisine in the Muslim Quarter. Luckily we were with Vanessa as no-one spoke English. We had no idea what she ordered but she told us to start tearing up pieces of Chinese dough bread into small pieces into a bowl. Then the bowl was taken downstairs to be filled with a lamb stock, noodles and chunks of lamb meat. No idea what it was called but it was amazing.

In the evening we visited the Big Goose Pagoda which was completed in AD 652 to store Buddha sutras brought back from India by monk Xuan Zang. The neon-lit fountain and music show is a nice little treat with the Goose Pagoda lit up in the background and Tom had fun getting drenched with the locals running through the fountains.

The main reason we visited Xi'an was to see the Army of Terracotta Warriors. One of the most famous archaelogical finds in the world, it is now a World Heritage Site. For over two millennia this life-size army of thousands have stood guard over the emperor Qin Shi Huang. There are a couple of theories while the emperor ordered thousands of custom designed warriors  hand-carved from stone. Either Qin Shi Huang was terrified of the spirits awaiting him in the afterlife, or he expected to rule after his death, into the afterlife and needed to recreate the warriors that guarded over him during his lifetime.

The discovery of the army was purely made by mistake by a peasant man drilling a well in 1974. He uncovered an underground vault that yielded thousands of terracotta warriors and horses in battle formation. Amongst the army was recreations of the stables, weapons, chariots, sacrifical offerings and animals (evidence found that some were buried alive).

If you ever get the chance to visit, we highly recommend doing the museum first to gain some historical background and Pits 1 to 3 in reverse. Pit 3 was the smallest with 72 warriors and horses and believed to be the army headquarters due to the high number of high-ranking officers residing here. In Pit 2 there are around 1300 horses and warriors. This is probably the most uninteresting pit as the majority of the pit is still being unearthed. Pit 1 was the largest with over 6000 warriors and horses standing in battle formation. At the front are three rows of archers with the main soldiers standing behind orginally carrying wooden spears, swords and dagger axes, which have since rotted away. Finally at the back are 35 chariots. It is a slightly surreal sight as this imposing army stand there in strict lines as if they have just been made from a conveyor belt.

The museum is the most interesting as you get to see 5 warriors in close detail. From a kneeling archer to a high ranking officier it is amazing the high level of detail that has has gone into the terracota carvings. It is believed that the stone warriors were copied from their real life counterparts, all the hairstyles, facial expressions, eyes and detailing in the armour and footwear are all unique. 

Xi'an was one of our favourite stops in China and easily could have spent more than our 4 nights there. But we're now off to Shanghai and Beijing.......

Lots of Love,

Hollie and Thomas x x x

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grandad on

just great think of all the things you will be able to teach the kids

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