Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses

Having spent a night on the sleeper, we met Mum and Dad and the Guide at Xi’an train station.  Martin was greeted with a McDonald’s Coffee, and whilst probably not the best coffee on the market, it was the only one on offer!

Into the minibus for the 5 of us and off we went to a museum of some archaeological value.  To be fair I just wanted to go and see the Warriors, but, the Guide clearly had her own plan of things to do and see that day, and so, I followed without complaint.   It was really interesting though, and Eleanor was interested too, asking questions that my Mum answered.  The site was an ancient settlement of over 6000 years old.  Banpo Museum has maintained it, and put some of the artifacts on display, such as skeletons, and pots.  Eleanor didn’t shy away from the skeletons and we were able to tell her that they buried the bodies of children in clay pots.  We showed her the foundations of the houses, and there were videos on how the houses were built.  The setting of this museum was incongruent to the buildings around it.  It was on a busy road and there were high rise flats being built on 3 of the 4 sides.  But we had blue sky, and the cherry and magnolia tree blossoms were gorgeous. – A photographer’s dream, and so the busyness of the setting melted into the background.

It was in this museum that Eleanor surprised me.  I don’t quite know what Eleanor does in Mandarin at school. Dulwich College Suzhou, is supposed to be dual language and with 4 hours of Mandarin a week I know her tonal appreciation of the language is excellent. With both of us learning Mandarin we can cope with most situations.  What I did not reckon for was that Eleanor would look at a display full of characters and that she would pick out one and say that it was xiao – meaning small.  Now I knew that what she said was correct, but I didn’t know the character.  I asked the Guide, and she confirmed that Eleanor had indeed identified it correctly.  

After the museum, we then set off for a factory.  Here they make the replicas and indeed will cast your head to put on a warrior… When we leave China we want to do this.  Probably egotistical, but hey, at least they would be unique.   The factory gave us an insight into the timescale for making one, and it really is amazing to think how the warriors were made all those years ago.   We made our obligatory purchases.  Mum and Dad bought a lovely small horse, and Eleanor chose a small warrior, which she doesn’t want to take out of the box.  She chose it very carefully and thoughtfully.  We also have a horse magnet, which I bargained over.  It was noticeable here, that the person at the factory immediately lowered his prices when he learnt that we lived in China.  We got him to lower them even more when Eleanor paid for her warrior.   


Then back into the minibus and off to the Warriors via lunch.  The Warriors are not in Xi’an, they are very much out in sticks (though we never felt like we left the city). Traffic was horrendous and I fell asleep.  But the Guide said it would take about 45 minutes and nearly 2 hours later we still weren’t there.  

We finally arrived at the designated restaurant, that is clearly used for all tours going to see the Warriors.  A bowl of rice and numerous vegetable dishes with a smattering of meat arrived.  Drinks were not included.  I ordered a beer for Martin, the price shocked us, as usually a Chinese beer is cheaper than Orange Juice etc, but this beer was the same price as the orange juice – welcome to the “tourist trap”.

Lunch over, it was time to see the Warriors…. we were not disappointed.  

The Warriors have lay hidden for over 2000 years, and could still have been hidden had it not been for the farmer digging a well.  The farmer who happened upon some pottery in 1974, was rehoused alongside the rest if the community in the area to allow the excavation.  The farmer now hangs about the visitor’s centre smoking cigarettes, posing for the odd photo and signing books for tourists who want to know more about the Warriors.  Mum and Dad bought said book and it has been signed by said farmer.    


When you enter Pit 1, the largest and by far the most impressive pit, it is astounding to think that no-one was aware of the existence of these 6000 plus warriors modelled from the yellow clay, to guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi.  The ruler, at age 13 decided that he wanted an army to guard him in the afterlife.  It is thought it took over 700,00 people and 36 years to construct the tomb. 

Pit 1 is where the infantry are, and as it stands there are still a lot of warriors waiting to be put back together.  It was odd to see some of the warriors with their arms in slings, faces in cling film, duct tape (of sorts) taping the body together, it was a scene from an A&E and Eleanor now refers to the Warrior Hospital.   


Pit 2 is still being excavated, as the teams responsibile for the excavation want to see if they can protect the pigment that was used to colour them.  The vivid pigments fade after exposure to air, hence the need at the moment for cling film.  Pit 2, also allows us to see some of the warriors behind display cases, thus allowing an up close and personal view.  (once you have fought through the hoards of Chinese).  Pit 2 contains soldiers and cavalry. 

Pit 3, is the smallest area, and is thought to have been the Command Centre with 70 high ranking officers.  The Pit is deep and the views not as breathtaking as Pit 1.  However, it is great to see and we wonder if they will ever finish the excavation, and what they will continue to find.  It is astounding to think that no one warrior has the same facial features.  


Martin and I did not think the area was busy.  But the Guide told Mum and Dad that it was a busy day.  Knowing what attractions can be like, I think we were lucky!

From the Warriors we headed back to The Bell Tower Hotel, which was in central Xi’an.  Our minibus nearly didn’t make it, as it backfired every so often and it struggled up hills.

On Sunday morning before heading back on the flight from Xi’an to Pudong, Shanghai, we (well Martin and I) cycled by tandem around the intact City Walls.  The 9 mile perimeter cycle took about 1hour and half.  I was at the front, Martin at the back.  He complained loudly everytime I hit  an area where there was a missing stone.  There were several of these potholes and so the complaining was quite often.  He did not take up the offer to ride at the front.   Mum, Dad and Eleanor took the more sedate transport of a large golf buggy.  Eleanor wanted to cycle, but unlike in Suzhou where there are bikes for 2 adults and a child, there was only a choice of a tandem or bicycle.  

It was nice to cycle, but, once you have seen one mile of the wall, you have seen all 9 miles of it, especially when the skies were grey and depressing.   


We then came off the wall and walked through calligraphy street.  There we saw a man, with an arm that ended at just above his elbow.  He had an elasticated bandage just above the stump, and through that band was a paintbrush.  He was painting the finest Chinese characters on a fan.  Mesmorising to watch.  


The only place we didn’t do, was the Muslim Quarter.  That came highly recommended, but when you are in a city for approximately 30 hours, something has to give.