Once the end destination of the Silk Road, Xi’an was a land-mark Chinese city rich in history, culture and trade. Today it stands as a busy modern city, with many tourists still flocking to see the world famous delights of the Terracotta Army and The Tomb of Emperor Jingdi. If you look a little closer then it’s possible to get a glimpse of the old Xi’an, in the ancient Ming dynasty city walls that still surround the centre, or in the bustling Muslim quarter where street sellers offer exotic tasting foods that contrast greatly to the Asian cuisine. Spend some time wondering the streets to get the best experience of this contrasting city.
Visit the Terracotta Army Of Warriors
A trip to Xi’an just isn’t complete without a visit to China’s most famous attraction, the Terracotta Army. Discovered in the 1970's by local peasants digging for a well, the ancient army lay buried for thousands of years after the Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, had the warriors constructed to guard him from evil in the afterlife. Thousands of life-sized figures of men and horses have been unearthed standing in battle formation in ginormous dug-out pits, that are now on show to the public in huge exhibition halls.
It is advisable to start at the smaller of the 3 pits (pit 3) first and work your way up to the largest pit (pit 1) for the most impressive of the archeological findings. Several of the terracotta men are on show in glass cases, and it is possible to see the workmanship up close. The detail on them is next-level extraordinary, the hair, the tread on the soles of the shoes, the hint of coloured paintwork that once brought them to life. Each face is unique and no two are the same. This is mastery and skill at its best, and the scale of the creation is at times overwhelming.
As with all popular Chinese tourist attractions, the groups of crowds can be quite distracting and a lot of tat is being sold on route to the display halls. It is probably better to visit earlier in the day for a slightly quieter experience, or to head into the halls at lunch time when most of the Chinese are eating. Putting the annoyances aside, this is one of the rarest discoveries of its kind in the world, and is worth the effort of visiting. Make sure you take a trip to the internal museum for a quieter view of one of the warriors up close.
Entry is 150 yuan for access to the 3 pits, museum and cinema showing of how the figures would have been casted (this was closed when we visited). The 306 bus will take you there from outside Xi’an main train station and costs 7 yuan for a 1 hour journey. Plan for a half day to visit the site.