A Glimpse into the Past – Terracotta Warriors – Xi’an, China

Since my parents retired they are fast becoming the most well-travelled people I know!  and coming from me that really is something.  They call it ‘S.K.I holidays’, i.e. Spending Kids Inheritance! Isn’t it great to have witty parents?

Anyhow their next trip is back to the incredible country of China, to explore more of the interior (what I classify as real china!).  They have been to Shanghai and Hong Kong before but never to the most iconic of attractions – The Wall, The Warriors, The Pandas and of course the Yangtze River. So with my Uncle and Aunt, they decided it was time to explore this beautiful land. I did a very similar trip in 2005 and as such have already blogged about my experience on the Great Wall. Therefore for in honour of their trip, I thought I would look back on My Wandering Memories of the Terracotta Warriors and the Yangtze River.

I’ll start with the iconic Terracotta Warriors located outside of the beautiful city of Xi’an. Xi’an was once the capital of Imperial China back in the Qin dynasty – literally over 2,000 years ago (221-206 BC). I always find it fascinating to go to cities, and towns that have that much history… This city itself is over 1,000 km from Beijing and Shanghai, and took us a good 12 hours plus on a sleeper train! Epic experience, as I had never experienced a train with beds in it before.

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The centre of the city is encased by an ancient wall, which is incredible to either walk or cycle. We hired a Tandem bike and literally rode around the borders. It’s one of those experiences you just have to embrace, even if you are a couple of twenty-five year old lads – we got a few funny looks but it was worth it. Watch out those as locals also frequent the wall and dodging them can be a mission in itself.  Also note to self this is not a small city, and cycling the whole wall can take a while – buts it’s well worth it.

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Exploring the city is also brilliant; I found the city to be extremely interesting and very easy to navigate, much easier than Beijing, as long as you stay within the walls. There are specifically designed architecturally stunning gates that act as exits on all sides, as well as a central temple piece in the middle of the city.  I love this type of architecture; it’s always so interesting and just different to anything we have in Europe.  Whilst exploring there are several markets and street vendors that just increase the authentic feel to this traditional Chinese city. We took every opportunity to eat at these vendors as they were offering all sorts of delights, from freshly cooked noodles, and steamed dumplings, to barbecued rat, dog and even snake. It is actually said that if you can see the food being cooked it is safer.

So outside of the city around a 50 minute drive is the highlight of the show, the Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, commonly known as the site of the Terracotta Warriors. It is probably the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century and extremely interesting, even if you have no interest in history. Just viewing these magnificent creations you just wonder, why? How? It’s just mesmerizing.

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For those of you who don’t know this Emperor is said to have commissioned the build to remember the army that triumphed over the warring states and bought unity to China. Or that they were built so the Emperor could take them into the afterlife with him, as his own personal army.

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There are a number of archaeological digs in the site, that all encase the actual figures as they were found. The sites are huge and their minds boggling to think that some are still buried. There are literally thousands of them all littered around the dig, ranging from full soldiers to horses, chariots and other magnificent creations.  What also fascinated me were the ruins of some of the warriors that were destroyed in numerous raids on the tomb throughout the years. Legend has it that nearly 90% of the warriors and army were actually destroyed by these raids; therefore the thousands you see today are just that 10% that were left – Some are even rebuilt by archaeologists – Incredible! It ignites my imagination…

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What I also found out which peaked my interest was that the digs were stopped whilst we were there as they discovered that all these amazing clay creations were originally meticulously painted in fantastic colours before being buried. The reason we don’t see many of them in their full glory is when they are excavated, the paint meets the oxygen in the air and fades.  I believe now there are a few examples that have been conserved in their true original form.

While I was there, the actual tomb was still not excavated, as the Government wanted to preserve it how it actually is. This I had a huge amount of respect for, as it would increase the draw of the Warriors tenfold, however at what cost?

Even if you are not a fan of history, Xi’an is unmissable when you visit China. It really does encapsulate life outside of the bigger westernized cities, providing a mix of rural, historical and city life. I know you’ll enjoy it!

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