A fantastic day in Xian with my favorite Chinese warriors.
Xi'an Travel Blog› entry 40 of 251 › view all entries
April 24th, 2008 – by: cmgervais
The train has one toilet per car (it's pretty gross, but I have certainly seen worse) and a washroom with three sinks. There were no men hacking up phlegm in there, so I tried to fix myself up as best as I could. From the photos you may suspect I simply avoided dealing with my hair, and you would be right. Seems like I was the first one up, as I had the whole place to myself. Then I sat on the flip-down seat in the aisle, ate my peanut butter sandwich, and watched scenery fly by. That sandwich was so darn good I had another.
Steve and Lisa soon woke up and joined me in the aisle. We made hot beverages using the scalding water from a spigot at the end of the car. It all wasn't so bad, but... a shower sure would have felt good. I was groggy from sleeping poorly, but that didn't mitigate my excitement to see the Xi'an Warriors. I have been waiting years to see these guys!
Xian is a large, rectangular walled city. It is the capital of the Shanxi Province, an area incredibly rich in history. It was once the most populous and prosperous region of the world, back in the 700's under the Tang Dynasty. There are many things to see and do here, which I didn't realize until I read the Frommer's entry ... I really thought they just had the warriors and little else.
Our train arrived at 8:30am and we were greeted by a beautifully warm, sunny day.
While out and about in Beijing, we have taken to visiting the big American hotel chains to use their nice bathrooms.
The Hyatt was fantastic. We went to the cafe for a basket of various breads and some yogurt. My tea was delicious, and Steve exclaimed loudly several times over the coffee -- it's the first real, brewed cup of coffee he's had since we left home a month ago. It was a nice break.
Our plan was to then take a bus to see the terracotta warriors. So we took a cab back to the bus station and along the way our cab driver (a very merry man who perhaps had his breakfast from a bottle) convinced us to pay him instead. "Bus bad, cab good! ha ha ha!" He would take us to the warriors, then to a museum, for about $30.
The Xian Terracotta Warriors were discovered in 1974 by a farmer digging his well (who was, by the way, in the book store while we were there). They were put in place by an Emperor who was attempting to recreate his empire -- in full scale! -- for his afterlife. The story is that over 700,000 workers participated in this project, and our hired guide said that the Emperor was cruel to his workers and especially unpopular with farmers. Oh, and this all took place over 2,000 years ago!
The warriors themselves are full height (averaging 5' 11"), constructed of terracotta. Each has a unique face, wonderfully expressive. The warriors were reportedly created from all around the empire, so there is much diversity in face type and hair style.
Enormous buildings have been constructed right over the archeological site. Our first stop was Pit 1, which has columns of hundreds of restored warriors in battle formation. Most of the warriors were broken up and scattered about when they were found (our guide said the roof that had been covering them burned and collapsed, smashing many of them).
Next we went to Pit 2, constructed later and lacking the nice skylight that Pit 1 has (I wonder if they discovered the sunlight damages the warriors?). Along the side, some of the better warriors have been displayed in cases. There was a seated archer, in perfect condition. Not even a crack! There was also a standing archer, and a larger general, who was bigger than the other soldiers. The generals ate better and are bigger than the rank and file guys. It was great to see them so close up...I loved everything about the warriors and how they were displayed.
Pit 3 was smaller, and the warriors lined some halls as if to greet the emperor. It was darker in here and hard to get good photos.
There was also a hall that displayed two bronze chariots that had been painstakingly reconstructed from over 3500 pieces! Amazing, really. Just amazing. There were other items on display, such as the horse hardware and some tools. We looked around as our guide waited outside for us.
After that visit, nothing could spoil my day. I had no idea it would get even better!
From there we went to the Shanxi History Museum, which the Frommer's writer was in ecstasies over. We tried to tell our driver that we wanted to stop for lunch along the way, but that just caused confusion.
Then to the museum. I was frankly not too excited to see a bunch of pottery. This type of museum does not usually interest me all that much, because they are often done on a local level and can be pretty rinky dink.
We had let our driver go home rather than wait three hours for us. So from the museum we grabbed another cab to check out the Great Mosque, founded in 742. We were let out in the surrounding neighborhood, populated by Chinese Muslims selling food and wares in small shops along the street.
We had a hard time finding the mosque, but enjoyed the search as the area was so interesting. Finally we found the right path (a series of small winding streets), and did some shopping in the stalls that lined the area. I have never seen such terrible knock offs! We didn't buy anything.
The Mosque itself was very Chinese in style, with some Arabic touches. There were several buildings -- dark and ancient -- with flowers growing on the roofs. An expansive garden-like courtyard tied it all together. It was really, really nice. Another thing I would highly recommend. Xian was really good to us today!
We were hungry and it was time to start thinking about getting to the train station for our overnight back to Beijing.
Finally we got some food -- greasy and not very good. The chopsticks were recycled and also greasy and disgusting. The draught beer was pretty good though.
Then back on the train. I was soooo tired from a lack of sleep and a busy, exciting day.
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