At the very beginning of 2017, I decided to do some travelling. The best part of doing my exchange program in China is the semester breaks. We get around 2 months holiday between the terms! I made my plans, looked at my budget and decided to visit Xi’an, Suzhou and Hangzhou.
I took an overnight train from Beijing to Xi’an to start my trip. I made sure that this time, I got a bed. My previous experience of going on a overnight train to Taishan was not great. The hard seats, well, they are VERY hard seats!
So, what is there to do in Xi’an? A fair bit, but obviously the most famous site of Xi’an, and a must-see in China is the Terracotta Warriors!
The Terracotta site was discovered in 1974 by local farmers. After notifying the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, a large warehouse was created to house the statues after being evacuated by archaeologists. In Chinese, it is:
Bīng Mǎ Yǒng
I arrived in Xi’an early in the morning. As I am definitely not a morning person, I set off to find coffee before getting the bus to the Terracotta Warriors. I had to make do with KFC. It was that or McDonald’s, great choices (please note sarcasm).
The bus takes about half an hour, and you arrive at the Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses. I was really surprised, as it is not what I imagined at all. The first thing I saw: a sign for KFC.
I don’t know what the obsession with McDonald’s/KFC, but they are literally EVERYWHERE in China. There’s one of each on the corner of my university in Beijing!
Anyway, I got a tad lost in the entrance. There are tons of shops, both Chinese and Western. As well as a KFC, there’s Starbucks, Subway and Haagen-Daz. Boring. On my trip, I never ate at any of these (just picked up the occasional coffee, it’s really cheap!). I ate at the little shops with food vendors. This ranges from baozi (steamed, filled bun), jiangbing (popular Chinese breakfast item) and my favorite: hot, steamed sweet potatoes.
Eventually, I found the ticket office so that I could enter the site. On the way, I was bombarded by dozens of tour guides, offering to show me around for 100-200RMB. I was being really tight with money on this trip. I didn’t need a tour guide, as I had read that the museum has many signs telling you about the warriors, pits etc. However, I overheard a few and they had wonderful insight into the history and stories of the Terracotta Army. I will be going back to the Terracotta Army in March when my parents visit, so will definitely get a tour guide then.
When I entered the site, I headed straight for Pit 1. This is the main pit with the most unearthed warriors, and it was incredible when I walked in. It’s a large warehouse, and the viewing gallery is raised above the warriors, so you can see directly above the massive crowd of soldiers. When you look at the pictures online, it doesn’t compare to when you see it in person.
There are different variations to the types of statues in the pits. These include footman, chariots, horses and archers. Along with the figures, archaeologists found numerous weapons, such as bronze swords, arrows, crossbows and spears.
Pit 2 is a much smaller pit, in the shape of an L. Whilst there are less uncovered soldiers in this pit (many also broken), the exhibit is fascinating, as you see complex formations for battle and combat. Alongside the pit, there are glass cabinets with the cavalrymen displayed, so they can be seen clearer, under light and their purpose and detail explained.
Now, Pit 3 is rather an odd, strange pit. Firstly, it’s smaller than the first two. Secondly, many of the warriors don’t have heads. Archaeologists think that maybe someone came in and smashed then all up hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Thirdly, the formations suggest that the warriors are not used for battle formation. It is believed that pit 3 is the “command room” of the warriors, due to the unique layouts. Also, many weapons were found, but rather than the usual bronze items, archaeologists also found gold and stone products as well.
After visiting the pits, I visited the exhibition hall. They had an exhibit about the people of Ba, a ancient tribe of the Sichuan province. Whilst there were many artifacts from their time, there are no records of what happened to them, and they mysteriously vanished! Their history, with little record was considered more legend than factual
To investigate more into the people of Ba, teams evacuated the sites of Ba people, most famously the project of the Three Gorges. Doing so, brings the legend to light and truth. This exhibition was shared with 5 other sites over China aimed to shed light onto the culture of a population that lived over 2000 years ago. Totally fascinating.
After a little walking around, I headed back to the bus lot. After getting my sweet potato on the way out (heaven), mooching around the souvenir vendors to haggle down the price of a metal warrior statue (20RMB down from 250RMB, go me!) and chatting to some American’s I had met, I headed back into the city for my next activity.
Here is a selection of other pictures I had taken that day:
I had planned to cycle the City Wall of Xi’an, but the pollution was incredibly thick, and as much as I wanted to do it, knowing that I was coming back in the spring I thought I would save the excursion as something new to do when I returned. So instead, I walked to the Drum and Bell Tower of Xi’an.