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The Terracotta army of Xian, the first capital of unified China, is regarded as one of the top archaeological findings of the 20th century. It was discovered in 1974, by a group of farmers digging a well. This was the one thing that had put a Xian trip on my bucket list. But in our trip, we found that Xian, the old Capital of China, has a lot more to offer. We rode a bullet train, traveling at a speed of 300km/hr, to reach the Terracotta Warriors. The 5-hour journey from Beijing was comfortable, with attendants offering us the food menu, checking on our needs etc. We took a locker service on the Xian Railway Station to store our luggage and took a bus to the reputed Eighth Wonder of the World.
The Terracotta Army of Warriors
Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of unified China, built an afterlife army to protect himself. It was believed that objects like statues, could become animated in after life. Located in the worlds largest imperial tomb complex, the Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum – The Terracotta Army museum is huge. The 8000 unique life-sized statutes differing in expressions, clothing, ranks and features, gives us an insight to the military might as well as the detailed artistry of that time – 2000 years ago, 700,000 artists took 40 years to build this mausoleum for their emperor.
The Museum is divided into three pits and an exhibition hall. The first pit contains the main Army of soldiers, commanders, and their horses. The second Pit has the highlights of the vaults and mostly contains the archers, chariots and the cavalry units. The Third Pit the smallest and the most important of them hosts the command post and consists of 68 terracotta figurines of Officials.
It was an overwhelming moment for me. Just like a Hollywood movie, it seemed as if every statute is on the brink of coming alive, and at any moment an arrow will zoom past me, and the nearest soldier will attack me chanting his war cry.
With many more Terracotta figures still being unearthed in Xian of acrobats, musicians and other members of the court, and the doors of the emperors tomb still not opened, I am sure many more mysteries will be uncovered, and the museum will get more addition to its impressive collection.
Hungry after 3 hours of history lessons, we bought some peaches on the way and boarded the bus back to Xian Railway Station.
Thankfully the taxi driver took us to Han Tang Hostel without confusion. It was a very beautiful place with the flags of different countries all over. We had a quick shower and ventured out to explore the area.
There was some delicious looking street food in the area, which we didn’t try as we already had our meals. We had a nice long walk at night. Thank god we were not lost again.
Bell Tower of Xian
Next day we visited the bell tower of Xian. The bell tower was made during the Ming Dynasty, and it is one of the largest bell towers in the world. The tower, with a square base, is made up of brick and timber and is around 40 meters high. It looks beautiful when illuminated in the evenings.
Below are the few places which we were not able to visit due to a shortage of time, but are must see places in Xian, if you are planning to visit it for more than two days.
Wolong Temple – which means sleeping dragon, is an ancient Buddhist temple that was constructed more than 1,800 years ago, during the Lingdi’s reign (AD 168-189). Once a leading monastery of Xian, it was destroyed in the Republican period and later rebuilt It is a peaceful spot and a great place to stop, relax and observe local life. The main attraction there are the painted 24 Devas kings – including Indian Gods Brahma, Indra and Shakyamuni Buddha.
The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda is a holy Buddhist pagoda that was built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty. One of the pagoda’s many functions was to hold sutras and figurines of the Buddha that were brought to China from India by the Buddhist translator and traveler Xuanzang. Xuanzang made seventeen overland trips between China and India, bringing back relics and other important pieces of Buddhist history. His adventurous journey formed the basis of the popular Ming-dynasty novel, Journey to the West.
The Great Mosque of Xi’an
The mosque is a 130,000 square meter complex, and is the oldest and one of the most renowned mosques in the country, having been founded in 742. One of the unique things about the Great Mosque of Xi’an is that it is constructed entirely in the Chinese style, aside from some calligraphy and other smaller Arabic decorations. It is aligned on an east-west axis, facing Mecca.
The Daming Palace Heritage Park
Built in AD 635, The Daming Palace was once the largest and most grandiose imperial palace in the world. It was the center of political, economic and culture of Tang Dynasty (618-907) during their rule. It served as the royal residence of the Tang emperors for more than 200 years, till plundered and burnt by a fire. The grand imperial residence is surrounded by a very spacious park, and the entire palace complex and park area is a designated national heritage site.
It’s a good place to have some non-vegetarian delicacies because of the presence of a large community of Muslims. You should visit the Muslim quarters to have one of the best street food in Xian. You will find a great deal of goat and lamb meat too if you want to take a break from pork and beef. There are few Indian restaurants in Xian, and you can find them here. And if you are staying in a hostel, then you always have a choice of eating western food, and you can always tell them to customize it.
Places to stay in Xian
Being a huge tourist destination and big cosmopolitan city, Xian has no dearth of hostels, budget accommodations, and 5-star hotels. Notable are backpackers hostels – Han Tang Inn Hostel, BC Villa Inn Hostel .
5-star hotels: Westin Xian, Shangrila Xian
We traveled to Xian via bullet train from Beijing. But if you want to come straight to Xian, then there are some international flights available from Helsinki, San Francisco, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul, and Singapore through China Airlines and Cebu Pacific airlines.
Bidding Goodbye To Xian
Xian was the capital of China for around 1000 years, making history for 73 of its emperors. Enough to keep a person marveling for at least a month. Our stay in China was short. We wanted to visit all the tourist attractions but targeted Xian for the Terracotta warriors. We felt really sad about missing few world-renowned structures. We left the city for Chengdu via train, still the pictures of warriors vivid in my memory.
This article was first published on the author’s personal website.
- Imperial City of Xian Trip: Afterlife Army, Palaces and More - January 30, 2017