Xi'An : Constant Grey, Eternal Clay
Xi'an Travel Blog› entry 166 of 268 › view all entries
Two days in XiâAn. For those such as I heading West to East through China, probably the first âgotta gotta gotta get to that city!â destination on the itinerary. This of course by virtue of it being home to the not-so-long-ago discovered but world renowned Terracotta Warriors. The Chinese Authorityâs self-proclaimed âEighth Wonder of the Worldâ. But more of them in a moment.
First I must lug myself off the night train from Chengdu (comfy, clean and fine for my 201RMB/ $29.50) and espy the âStephenâ sign held aloft by the kind representative of the excellent â7 Sages (Qi Xian) Youth Hostelâ. A sign is ready for James and Sarah too (UK both) who will be my principle pals for my time in this former imperial seat of ancient China.
Itâs a pretty grey grey day. This will remain the case for all of our time in XiâAn and to a large extent this limits my capacity to engage with the city; to take in its internal sights and culture and really try to âget to knowâ the place. In fact day two, in an extremely rare moment for my travels to date, is a real washout. No trips outside at all whilst I sit reading, chatting and killing time ahead of my second night train. This time to Beijing. But Iâm getting ahead of myself. Suffice to say I really mind very little about this enforced stop to my wanderings as having travelled so far, so fast and having walked my feet to destruction in Chengdu yesterday I am so perfectly happy just to do next to nothing for a time I just canât tell ya.
XiâAn anyhow from a touristâs perspective is pretty much about one thing and one thing only. That being the Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin Shi Huang or âQinâs Armiesâ as they are sometimes entitled.
Situated about an hours bus ride out of the âImperial Cityâ area of XiâAn the first of the great pit necropolis sites of the Terracotta Army was discovered as recently as 1974 by local farmers drilling and digging for construction of a water well. The site today, situated 1.5kms East of Emperor Shi Huang Diâs actual tomb site besides Lishan mountain comprises 3 main covered pit areas amongst various other buildings of various purpose (merchandising, conferences and so-called âinformationâ - yeah, more about that, or the lack of it later too!).
There must be about 10 trillion blogs pertaining to this site of vast archaeological and cultural significance so Iâm not sure where to go with this one really? A brief internet-cadged potted history I guess and then a farewellâŚ
Emperor Qin Shi Huang ruled China between 246 - 221 BC only but did rather a lot in his short-ish tenure.
The âArmyâ as now known to us consists of 8,000ish soldiers, 130 chariots and 670 horses of varying sorts stood (or now crumbled) in military guard formation in 3 main archaeological pits. These latter structures for the preservation and presentation of the âEighth Wonderâ themselves grand works of the usual questionable taste for blocky grey Brutalist, Communist architecture at its âŚ um?âŚ best? On their insides they appear quite fabulously like youâve walked into some cavernous subterranean James Bond baddy lair complete with intricate structures of glass, plastic and metal girders with appropriate floodlit eeriness and with the Army stood there arrayed and âSet to be reanimated, unleashed and to CONQUER THE WORLD ONCE MORE!!! Mwwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-HA!â.
On this last pointâŚ I.e. The purpose of the army, that previous and poor comic flourish is apparently not so far from the truth. One of the prevailing theories being that the âArmyâ, supposedly an actual replica of the main defence force that guarded the Emperor in his lifetime (even down to direct copying of soldiersâ facial characteristics) was intended by him to assist in his conquering, establishment and rule of an ongoing empire and dynasty in whatever worlds met him in his afterlife.
A good number of people you will talk to whoâve visited this site will express various forms of disappointment with it. An anti-climax. âA wasted journeyâ and worse. One Chinese lad I chat to in Shanghai some while later in my journey says ââŚthey really, really frustrated me! Growing up in China, in schools, in our lessons we are told again and again and again how wonderful and incredible and amazing this site is.
The problem, for there is one, with the site is the absolutely staggering dearth of information and learning to be taken from it. Itâs a modern, well-presented and very, very sizeable location with many fine enough and well appointed buildings and halls. But you can cast your eyes to every single wall, display and surface in the place and probably reiterate on the back of a postcard the sum total of insight and learning that this place bothers to impart to its well-paying visitors. Not just for those suffering in need of translation either. Thereâs just no info in Chinese, English or any other tongue you care to mention. The âmuseumâ centre is a disgrace for the ambassadorial hall of knowledge to an UNESCO World Heritage Site that it should be and the hilariously old, shoddy and bad panoramic cinema film of the history of Qin Shi Huang and his âArmyâ likewise will teach na one nuffinâ mate.
But do go. Really. How can you not if youâre a lover of history and cultureâŚ and Indiana Jones. :)
As I said before, constant grey and its attendant rains were James, Sarah and Iâs companions in XiâAn so apart from braving any weather whatsoever for the purpose of eating the phenomenally gorgeous food in the Muslim Quarter of the old city we stirred little from the comfort, beer ânâ good cheer confines of our hostel.
* 'Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark'