Visiting the Terracotta Army in Xian, China

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The Terracotta Army of Xi’an, one of the most impressive discoveries of the 20th century. We were about to see these warriors in their natural setting. I couldn’t be more excited, especially as the site is still an archeological dig zone and I wanted to feel like Indiana Jones for the day!

Below are our favourite shots from the day and the amazing information about this UNESCO world heritage site.

The Terracotta Army is a massive collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. They were buried with him around 210 BC as a form of protection in the afterlife. I don’t like the sound of his version of afterlife!

The site is huge. The photo above is just a small snapshot of what archeologists have found. Current estimates are that in the 3 pits that they have dug there are 8,000 soldiers, as well as hundreds of chariots, horses and cavalry, most of which is still buried.

The terracotta army was discovered by local farmers who were digging a well in 1974! We hadn’t realised it was such a recent find before we got here. Fragments of terracotta had been found for many years before the Chinese government decided to investigate. I am glad they did!

In addition to the army an entire replica of the imperial palace is buried beneath the emperor’s tomb mound which is located at the foot of Mount Li. In the replica there are offices, halls, stables and much more. This guy did not plan to sleep for very long! If you want to save your legs and see the site on an organised tour, then check out Xian Package Tours where you will get to see the site with locals.

There are four main pits associated with the terracotta army. The main pit or pit 1 is where the bulk of the army is buried. There are roughly 6,000 figures in it. Pit 2 is where the cavalry, infantry and war chariots are. Pit 3 is where the high-ranking officers are and most interestingly pit 4 is left empty. It seems like the builders just stopped working. Maybe there was a public transport strike!

They have found many weapons such as swords, crossbows and spears in the pits with the terracotta army. Some of the finds are still in pristine condition, even after 2,000 years!

The terracotta army figures were manufactured in workshops by government laborers and by local craftsmen, and the material used to make the terracotta warriors originated on Mount Li.

Ironically I missed the Terracotta Army exhibition at the British Museum as it was sold out. I am glad I got to see them in their rightful setting.

Trip Tips

1. We took the train from Pingyao to Xian (roughly 8.5 hours) and pretty pain-free.

2. Admission Fee – CNY150 (March 1 – end of November), CNY120 (December 1 – end of February)

3. We stayed at the Shuyuan Youth Hostel which we loved. It’s a great place to meet other travellers. It has a cafe, restaurant and bar and they offer free pick ups from the train station.

4. There are free shuttle buses between Xian North Railway Station and the museum.

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