Xi'an and the Terracotta Army

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September 11th 2010
Published: October 6th 2010
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Terracotta Army

We awoke a couple of hours before we arrived in Xian by train. The countryside was beautiful with mountains and deep gorges (bad farming practices leading to erosion?), I wish I had gotten video's of that.

The primary reason for going to Xian was to see the Terracotta Army. When looking for tours in Beijing to set up an itinerary I noticed quite a few offering day trips to Xian typically with an overnight train there and back to Beijing but I figured I could do it myself one way - once we got to Beijing I wanted to maximize our time and did manage to schedule a private tour to pick us up at the train station and they were flexible to modify their tour to what we wanted to do...almost.

Just a brief description of the Terracotta Army: Built to protect the tomb of the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang around 210BC and only recently discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974! There are no known duplicates, each soldier is unique and believed to be modeled on real soldiers. I've seen a program on TV (w/ host Peter Weller) and claimed the tomb itself has been known all along and was larger than the Pyramids of Giza but with erosion is now at the height it is today. The tomb itself has not be excavated but they continue to unearth the surrounding pits holding the Terracotta Army.

We quickly spotted our tour guide holding up a sign with our name and found the driver and off we went. This driver, like all others didn't speak English but was the only one that seemed angry...at least when it came to other drivers. Driving in China is basically organized chaos, not for the faint of heart. Our first stop was a shop where they were going to show us how the built the Terracotta Army but instead, surprise, it was another tourist trap to sell us souvenirs! One notable selling point was to take photographs of your head from different angles then later create a life-size version of a terracotta soldier with your head! We spent about a total of 10 minutes there and we continued onward.

We visited three of the four pits - the fourth is empty. All have been enclosed to protect them from the elements and still have active excavations going on but we were visiting on a Saturday so no work was being done. Pit #1, the largest contains most of the army, mostly soldiers and a few chariots. The site where the well was being dug when the pit was discovered was also marked near the front. When our tour was done I came back to pit #1 alone as it was so impressive and I wanted to see it one more time. Pit #2 contains mostly cavalry and #3 is considered to be the command center with high ranking officials found within.


After a couple hours we headed back to Xian to eat lunch at a buffet style place geared towards tourists and large groups of them. Our next stop was the Shaanxi History Museum. Shaanxi is the Region where Xian is, once the imperial capital of China for many dynasties so the rich history of the area filled the museum. Our next stop was the city walls of Xian. The walls are large and completely surround the city and is about 14km. There were plenty of bicycle rentals on top of the wall to rent but since Kelly's not much into riding and it was pretty warm at that time in the late afternoon so we skipped that. I would have liked to ride around early in the morning.

We ended the tour and had them drop us off at the hotel. Interestingly enough the UK family we met on our tour to the great wall was in the same hotel, what a coincidence but was at a great location (right in the middle of town), a good price and quite large (it had a kitchenette in it). We were also able to do our laundry here but I was up at 2am getting our clothes out of the dryer downstairs.

Our dinner, spicy chicken was very pretty, it matched the pictures exactly but was very hot and mostly chicken on the bone cut up into small pieces, each piece was mostly bone with a little chicken. I filled up on some kind of egg rolls and rice. We did go to the Bell tower (a block from our hotel and center of town) and walked down a road in what I guess was the muslim quarter though I'm sure many of the meats we saw cooking weren't halal but I'm not sure. We weren't hungry enough to eat much of that that we did see.

Flight to Hangzhou

Fortunately the airport shuttle left from a hotel across from the bell tower so we were able to easily walk to that with one of the UK group (the mother) following along as she was heading out that way on her own to explore Xian. I was a little jealous that they had so much time to stay in these cities as long as they could, we burned through Xian in less than 24 hrs, they had 3 days. The 90 minute ride on the bus was a little interesting, a mother with her infant child sat next to me across the aisle. We had seen this before on other infants - they don't seem to put on diapers on them and and their pants are open to expose their little baby rear-ends. This little baby I noticed was also exposed in the front. At one point the baby was sitting on her lap pointing right at me. All I could think of was that that baby could let loose at anytime and would pee all over my leg but I lucked out.


Link to Kodak Gallery Photos.

Video Terracotta Army (YouTube). Resolution can be changed to 720 (HD).

Video Terracotta Army 2 .


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