Xi’An and the Terracotta army

After catching the night train from Shanghai I arrived into Xi’An – First I went to my favourite restuarant (McDonalds) for breakfast. After that I made my way down to the south gate to look for some accommodation. I found something right by the south wall which was good and cost ¥40/night. I found later that you could have got a better price booking online on Hostelworld et al. I was talking to some Americans who did this and that seems to be typical for China.

After checking into my hostel I made my way to the nearby south gate and climbed up onto the city walls. These are impressive brick constructions that apart from one segment appear to be in excellent condition. That segment is much more rough and ready but it was definitely still standing and keeping the wall up.

After wandering around the wall for a bit and looking over the walled centre of the city I headed back to the hostel for lunch of some Chinese dumplings before heading north into the centre of town towards the bell tower. First I attempted to get some thermal underwear as it’s freezing here and only going to get colder as I go north. I found a store selling them for ¥100 that contained “cashmere” when they were selling pure wool ones for ¥250 – something wasn’t right there. After this I headed to the bell tower and then to the drum tower which were both OK but not great – they had a musical performance in each as well but to be honest it was awful I even walked out of the second one. To be honest it reminded me of the end of year assemblies at school in goodness. But there you wanted to go home afterwards so I’m definitely biased against them. Then I went to the Xi’An mosque – something I had been looking forward to since I was in the islamic art museum in malaysia. The mosque is especially interesting as it is built in Chinese style so it doesn’t remind me of a mosque at all. There did seem to be practicing muslims in Xi’An as they were praying at the mosque when I was there. On the way back I passed through a Market selling the usual fake designer goods. It even had some fake iPods that had gone to great lengths to copy Apple’s copyright information which I found amusing. After that I went back to my hostel and had pizza which was great, at that point I met some Americans who had had much better luck at avoiding western food so with them I headed out to the muslim quarter to paradoxically have some traditional Chinese food after this I returned to the hostel to chat some more.

Then in the night I awoke to feel the room shaking slightly – clearly there had been a minor earthquake before I left to go to the Terracotta army. Rather than go on an organized tour (about ¥160) I headed out on my own which was fairly easy as you just take bus 306 from the train station. It was also much cheaper as it only cost ¥7 each way. All in all I paid another ¥35 to get in and ¥30 for an audio tour which was quite good and it had clearly been designed by an ease-of-use specialist as it only played each piece on the device exactly once. So if you typed the number wrong you were screwed.

Anyhow I should talk about the greatness that is the terracotta army itself. The whole thing is re-assembled as all the warriors were destroyed before they were found – though there were still some broken warriors left. In my view pits 1 and 3 were the best though pit 1 had most of the warriors with a large series that greeted you. Even though I saw some terracotta warriors before at the British museum this was still seriously amazing. The detail that has gone into them is absolutely stunning.

There is also a museum of some of the works, especially the bronze work which was highly detailed and also chromed to protect them from corrosion – something that wasn’t reinvented until 1937.

After that I left and got the bus back to Xi’An and then my adventure continues but I’ll talk about that in another post.

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