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China – Xi’an

Confucius say, Stone soldier look strong, but not if he has hollow legs

sunny 28 °C

You may not have heard of this famous Chinese town, but more than likely you will know all about its top tourist attraction... The Terracotta Army. Xi’an also used to be the ancient capital and it has lots of history to explore.

Our transport from Zhangjiajie started with another sleeper train, although Tanya and I were separated for this journey for some reason. It didn’t matter too much as the Chinese people in Tan’s cabin looked after her with lots of Chinese chatter, smiling and photo taking. The sleeper train was fine as we are starting to get used to the beds, routine and smoke inhalation. However after arriving in AnKang we had to endure a further 5 hours on a jam packed sardine train to Xi’an.

Thankfully we had a nice private room for our few days in Xi’an and the hostel was really nice and cosy with a massive traditional style bed and furniture. It rained when we were walking to the hostel, but after a few hours getting sorted and freshened up, the rain had cleared and taken all the smog with it too! That is a good thing about the rain here in China, they need it to clear the air a bit. So we headed out for the afternoon to get some photos with the clear sky and setting sun

We walked along the main roads towards the Bell Tower (the traditional bells ring to signal day break) and then the Drum Tower (the drums are beaten to signal the end of the day) and it was really nice to be walking around in the warm afternoon sun. We immediately noticed how modern and cosmopolitan Xi’an was compared to the other cities we have been to. There were lots of designer shops with Mercedes, BMW’s, Range Rovers and other high end cars in front of them.

Bell Tower

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The plan for the evening was simply to walk around the Muslim quarter which is famous for its great food. As Xi’an was the end of the line on the Silk Road connecting the East with the West, it had many immigrant populations and has had a Muslim presence ever since. It was nice to walk through the streets, with so much street food being prepared and sold. There was one stall selling some skewered meat, which looked pretty good and smelt great. The best sign though was the amount of Chinese people lining up to get one, so we joined the line and got a few skewers. Amazing, the best bit of meat we have had since Argentina probably!

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Drum tower

The morning saw some more clear skies, so we took to the city walls for a spot of bike riding. Xi’an has a pretty well preserved city wall that encloses the old city centre. Most of the wall dates from the Ming Dynasty in 1370. The bike hire on the wall gives you 100 minutes to complete the 13.7km circumference for the 40 Yuan fee. The views over the town rooftops was great, the ride a little bumpy from the worn stones and the weather a little on the warm side. We got back with a good 5 minutes spare after a little snack stop on the North walls. A good way to spend the morning.

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They are even watching you up here

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A traditional game with a shuttlecock type of thing

We made an evening trip out to the Big Goose Pagoda for the light show that was to start at 8pm. Its a little bit out of the city walls so we caught a bus out there and got to the fountains just for 8pm. It was a little underwhelming as there weren’t any lights or anything with the fountains, oh well... as we were about to walk away, the speakers came to life and said the show would be starting soon, needless to say, the real thing was much more like we were expecting!!

The south gate at night

The dud show

The real thing

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The following day we planned to go out and see the tomb of Emperor Jingdi. This tomb is supposed to have smaller terracotta figures which depict more of every day life rather than an army like at Emperor Qin’s tombs. The only problem is that getting out to this tomb requires a number of different bus connections. We had done our research and knew we had to get to the end of the #600 bus then change to the #4 bus which only goes past at 10:50 or 2pm. We got the 600 fine, and hopped off at the last stop around 10:30. I felt like the bus stop should have been in the opposite direction, but I checked the board over the road and that didn’t show number 4 on it either. Almost at 10:50 precisely, we saw the number 4 drive past on the opposite side of the road, not stop at the bus stop and drive through the lights! Crap! Not really wanting to hang around for 3 hours, we decided to put that trip down as just a China experience and go back to the hostel and wonder around Xi’an some more.

We saved the highlight of the city for the last day as our train wasn’t departing until 11pm. Firstly some background, after taking the throne of his kingdom during the 7 warring states period in 246BC at age 13, Emperor Qin was victorious and reunified China into one country for the first time and immediately set out in building his mausoleum and army of terracotta soldiers to protect him in his afterlife. Taking 10 years to build and using 700,000 workers, he died before it was completely finished and was buried with his army being sealed from the world. The army is well known for the intricate details of each soldier with no 2 being the same, and details right down to the tread on their shoes being completed. The tombs fell out of memory from civilisation and it was only when some farmers were drilling a well in the countryside in 1974 that they pulled up a lot of terracotta pieces. Since that discovery, the first pit has been surveyed and 2 other pits discovered in the vicinity.

We had read that it is good to start off in the smaller pit 3, then to pit 2 and finish with the largest pit 1 to top off the day. Pit 3 is very small and is thought to be the command centre due to the number of high ranking figures in this pit. It only has 68 pottery figures in it but given it was our first look at the warriors, it was really interesting still.

Why is everyone losing their heads round here!?

Seeing the pit without the soldiers pieced together is just as cool as the reconstructed figures


Pit 2 is still very untouched with only a couple of the rows having been excavated. There were lots of the kneeling archer warriors found in this pit though, and it is good to see what the ground looks like before it is dug up with the ancient wooden beams that once held the roof aloft sagging into each row.

Jack... I can’t feel my legs!!

Well i can’t feel anything

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The massive Pit 1 did not fail to impress either, definitely worth finishing off in this one having had the most excavation done here there are hundreds of soldiers stood in formation. Even though there has been a lot dug up, it was still surprising how much is still uncovered even in this pit. Some archaeologists were there doing some more digs and sorting, and this has been going on since the 70´s! They estimate that there will be around 6000 warriors in this pit alone!

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I feel like just another face in the crowd

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I think we found the original exponent of the ‘planking’ phenomenon


Well and truly impressed with the warriors, we made a quick visit into the museum which has all items that have been discovered in the emperor’s mausoleum and surrounding lands. There were lots of other types of terracotta figures buried around the massive land area of the tomb of the emperor. We left the site of the terracotta warriors and passed away the few hours at the hostel before yet another sleeper train.

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Amazing detail, right down to the soles of their shoes

Daniel – I have seen the terracotta army on many documentaries over the years, but it didn’t stop the hairs standing on end when i looked out over the pit with all the soldiers standing there looking back at me.

Tanya – Xi’an had plenty to offer from biking around the city walls, visiting the terracotta army to just wandering around the Muslim quarter, it was a fantastic visit.

Posted by dbgomes 10:17 Archived in China Tagged china round_the_world

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I remember going here with the Amazing Race LOL from the comfort of my chair that is LOL. Good history lesson and pics keep up the good work Miss you love from Mum and Dad XXXXX

by mum

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