Whenever I told people that I was going to Xi’an their first response was “Xi’an is an ancient city,” or something to that effect. I always just imagined it was because the most famous site near Xi’an is the archeological dig of the Terracotta Army and tomb of the first emperor of unified China, Qin Shi Huang, but it is much more than that.
Xi’an has an amazing, rich history that includes so much of China’s past including the first dynasties, the most prosperous dynasty, the end stop on the connection between East and West aka the Silk Road, and so much more. While in Xi’an I got a taste of it all.
Another off the Bucket List
The first destination for Aaron and I was the Terracotta Army just outside of the city. Being on my bucket list, I was super excited. Who wouldn’t be after seeing pictures of this Chinese wonder and hearing stories about it like how each of the 8,000 soldiers is unique.
This amazing archeological site was not found until the 1970s even with China’s excellent record-keeping history. Found by a farmer digging a well in his field, it is now one of the most important archeological finds in the world. It is still being excavated and new things are being found.
We took a bus from the Xi’an train station, many go just look for the ones that say it in English in the parking lot, and after about an hour ride were let out next to the major tourist area in front of the site full of eateries and shops. We got a little lost from here trying to find the entrance because we weren’t let off at the front gate but at the side entrance.
After following the masses to the gate, we found out that’s not where the ticket booth is and went back to find it. We got tickets and made our way back to the gate. There is a big park area then another entrance gate through which we found what we had been looking for. There are three buildings with pits that have been excavated and a museum.
Pit 1 is the most impressive and the one all the cool images come from. This is where you’ll see the ranks of terracotta soldiers, all with different faces and hair, standing in order down long ditches where they were buried. Once in, it wasn’t quite as spectacular as I imagined but it is still impressive. About halfway back in the pit is a current excavation site where archeologists are unearthing and rebuilding the clay figures.
To me that made it even more impressive that many of the statues were broken sometime over the last 2,200 years and have been put back together like puzzles. In some of my pictures you can see the seams where soldiers were glued back together.
In pits 2 and 3 you will find other figures but not nearly as many as pit 1. These pits include more specialized soldiers like kneeling archers, cavalry and high-ranking officers. However, pit 2 seems much further behind in the excavation process.
Next to the pits is another building with a museum telling about how the soldiers were found, why they were buried there and what was found at the nearby site of the first emperor’s tomb including terracotta and bronze figures of people and animals. And in true Chinese fashion, and entire exhibit about the museum itself including the construction process, opening ceremonies and visiting dignitaries.
As you leave, don’t forget to visit a shop or two to haggle for your own set of terracotta warriors of all sizes and qualities. Also sold at many shops are your standard Chinese souvenirs like jade. One of the funnier or not-so-funny (depends on how much you love dogs) things for sale are the “wolf” pelts that are clearly skins from various large dogs such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Mastiffs, but the shop workers ask if you want a wolf pelt.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one-of-a-kind and worth a visit if in China. To see more of my pics, visit my Photobucket account.