Xi’an was the ancient and, in fact, first capital of China. Qin Shi Huang conquered the various surrounding kingdoms and was therefore the first emperor of a unified China. His next move? The magnificent (or ludicrous) Army of Terracotta Warriors.
After high-speed train, plane, bus, taxi and 4×4 it was time for my first sleeper train in China. I entered the cabin and was greeted by a character from a movie; a fat beer-bellied guy with his shirt off (but suspenders on) who snored like crazy and seems to have some respiratory problems. I feared he would stop breathing at some point. Otherwise very comfortable
The restaurant carriage was where I was had one of the few meals I’ve been served in China that wasn’t hotter than the sun. I mean in temperature, not spice. I think Chinese people have mouths made of steel
Xi’an has a long history but is also a modern city of over 8 million people
Street scene of some gambling card game
Unfortunately it rained quite a lot and this was the view
The world wonder of the Terracotta Warriors…hmmm not bad
The majority of the warriors are broken. This guy is just hanging out waiting over 2000 years for someone to notice his new hairstyle
Here you can see some archaeologists working in the pits
It’s like a giant, ancient jigsaw puzzle to piece together the warriors. There are apparently 8000 soldiers spread across 3 pits. Only 2000 have been restored so far. At the current rate it will take decades to finish the job
This is a General of which there are only seven. He certainly looks like a guy I wouldn’t want to mess with. An interesting and often-repeated fact about the warriors is that each of the 8000 is an individual with unique facial features, hairstyle and clothes
This guy looks like he is trying hard not to laugh at something funny he just saw. Some of the soldiers have an almost metallic-like appearance due to being fired in a kiln for 7 days at temperatures up to 1000 degrees Celsius
This dashing young fellow is in the process of opening a Thermos flask full of green tea. Just kidding, he’s actually the kneeling archer and is supposedly the only warrior to be found fully intact
He is justifiably popular
“That’s where the toilet is”. This pit is huge and it’s small compared to Pit 1
Armies need headquarters in this life and the next. The Terracotta Army had its own (this is one wing)
Three farmers in 1974 were digging a well and accidently discovered the Terracotta Army. One of the farmers is now a bit of a celebrity and is often hanging around but I didn’t get to meet him. Amazingly the well was placed at the very front of the largest pit…quite a coincidence
The warriors were arranged in battle formation and came complete with real weapons (made of metal). Hence these guys are holding their arms out like they had spears. They were also brightly coloured but this has faded with time
When you see the full scale of the largest pit hosting 6000 warriors you can’t help but be impressed. However a creeping feeling came over me. My thoughts towards the Terracotta Army can be best described by one word: stupid. The whole endeavour is absolutely stupid, ludicrous and ultimately pointless. Emperor Qin did this all for himself; few of his subjects benefitted, in fact they must have suffered (much like the building of the Pyramids or other grandiose construction visions of pharaohs, dictators etc.). It was never meant to be discovered in this world and clearly doesn’t function in the way it was originally envisaged which was to allow for the continuation of Qin’s rule in a non-existent afterlife (maybe I’m wrong and Qin is master of the next world, currently laying waste to the Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings of the afterlife). Its only tangible benefit, as far as I can see, is that it gives tourists something to visit over 2000 years later and at least the local people can now profit from the folly of one ancestor. If you think I’m being unnecessarily harsh just remember that Qin had all the craftsmen that worked on his tomb buried alive to keep everything secret and that 3000 concubines were also buried alive to provide entertainment after death
…anyway…Hi mum and dad!
Time for tea!
We had a tea tasting which was surprisingly good and has given me a new found appreciation for the stuff
However Xi’an is much more than just baked clay. It’s a bustling city that is really best at night
On ‘Muslim Street’ you can find a range of strange, interesting and delicious food
Tasty potatoes makes for a nice change from rice and noodles
Apparently this sweet stuff needs to be pounded into oblivion to be edible. Otherwise I don’t understand
Cycling the city walls (largest in the world of course) at night allows you to take in both old and new at the same time. Plus the pollution and smog helps to illuminate the night sky
I think this allows you to get a sense of the scale of the walls
The Bell Tower is lit up incredibly beautifully at night. Bonus moon for free.
Fast-paced, dynamic and modern but simultaneously ancient and timeless
Next up: The Otherworldy Zhangjiajie