Friday 27 May Terracotta Warriors – Xi’an

This morning we woke to a cool and raining morning. We left the hotel at 8.00am and were taken on a tour to see the attractions of Xi’an, one of the oldest cities in China, home to one of the world’s most famous archaeological discoveries. On our way to a section of the City Wall, we saw people going to work and lots of scooters with special umbrellas that were round at the front and then elongated at the back to protect the passenger too.

The City Wall, which is 5,000 years old, is the most complete city wall that has survived in China, as well as being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. The rectangular Wall is approximately 14 kilometres in length, 12 metres high, 12 metres wide at the top and 14 metres wide at the base, has 4 Main Gates and 14 small gates. The Wall also has a moat around it and drawbridges, which are always open now and the City Gates, which have all been reconstructed, are always open too. Some sections of the wall are protected and visitors are not allowed to go on them.

We visited the West Gate where Silk Road began and climbed up 74 steps to the top and looked along the Wall, which disappeared in the mist. After Jimmy gave us some information about the wall, we were given free time to wander around taking photos. As well as the main West Gate Tower, we found other Watch Towers that were built on Ramparts that protruded out of the wall. Capable of defense from three directions, the Ramparts, located every 120 metres, were key facilities in the whole-line defense system. As we wandered around, there was beautiful soft Chinese music playing along the wall. Inside the wall there are only businesses now and no houses – there is a limit on the number of storeys that are allowed to be constructed inside the wall.

Then we travelled about an hour to the Terracotta Warriors Workshop, a clay factory where terracotta soldiers are still made today using the local clay the same as the originals and fired in ovens. The factory covers 2,000 square meters and employs more than 40 technicians. Our guide showed us how they are made and we were given the opportunity to buy some souvenirs. Then we were taken upstairs to the Chinese Lacquer Workshop where we saw some amazing pieces and then to the Furniture Museum where they had amazing Chinese style furniture, including a Wedding Sedan chair and dowry chests etc. We had an early buffet lunch on the 3rd floor of the same building before heading off to the Terracotta Warriors, 10 minutes away.

We spent the afternoon at the world famous Terracotta Warriors, an incredible collection of terracotta sculptures built in 209 BC. It is believed that they were made to be buried with the Fist Emperor Qin Shi Huang as a show of his glory and to remember the army that triumphed over the other warring states that united China, and also because it was believed that objects like statues can be animated in the afterlife. The tomb is a treasury for the Chinese people and for the whole world and in December 1987, UNESCO selected the Tomb of the First Emperor (including the Terracotta Army Vaults) as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

We visited the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses. Here lie the three excavation pits where the collection of Terracotta Sculptures depicting the warriors of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China, were first unearthed by a farmer in 1974 when he was digging a water well. Thousands of life-size terracotta warriors in battle formation were revealed in the course of excavation of the earth and timber vaults. The horsemen, the longbow bearers, the archers, and the senior officers and generals were positioned in a grand ancient army formation. Amazingly, every figure differs in facial features and expression, clothing, hairstyle, and gestures.

Many of the figures originally held real weapons of the time, such as bronze swords, longbows, arrows, spears, dagger, axes, and other long-shafted weapons. The weapons were treated to make them resistant to rust and corrosion, so that even after being buried for over 2,000 years they were still sharp. Our local guide took us through the Museum, and the pits where we were able to view some of the best-preserved sculptures.

After an awesome afternoon, we were taken back to the City, passing fields of Winter wheat, which will be harvested in July, as well as lots of apartment buildings – one of the things that never ceases to amaze us in China is the huge number of groups of 10 – 14 apartment buildings that are all the same, grouped together and scattered throughout the cities. As we got closer to Xi’an City, the traffic got increasingly heavier and slower and what appeared to be more chaotic, with cars changing lanes, scooters and pedestrians moving between buses and cars, missing our bus by inches and the traffic appearing to have little or no regard for traffic lights unless there was a traffic policeman on duty at the intersection.

We arrived back at our hotel at 5.15pm, had showers and got dressed, ready for our evening out. We met in the foyer at 6.00pm and were taken back through the crazy traffic (should have taken 30 minutes, but it took 60 minutes) to the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Palace, where we enjoyed a Tang Dynasty cultural performance with dancers and musicians. The costumes were beautiful with traditional style and vibrant colours. The musicians were amazingly talented, playing instruments that we had never seen before. We thoroughly enjoyed the one hour performance before going upstairs to the restaurant section for a traditional dumpling dinner, which was delicious.

Our local guide, Jimmy, organised for the driver to take us back to our hotel a different way so that we could see the City Wall and Watchtowers lit up at night – quite spectacular. We arrived back at the hotel at about 10.15pm after a big, but most enjoyable day.

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