Visiting the Terracotta Army

Last week, I travelled to the ancient city of Changan, now known as Xi’an. For those of you unfamiliar with China’s geography, Xi’an is a 14 hour train ride south-west of Beijing. Most tourists go there to visit the Terracotta Army.

The First Emperor, in his youth, ordered these terracotta warriors and horses to be sculpted, so that when he died they may be buried with him and protect him in the afterlife. Buried just before 200BC, they remained underground and unknown until a farmer in the 1970’s accidentally found them. Now, they are a classed as a UNESCO world heritage, and attract millions of visitors every year.

terracotta army
A crowd of warriors

When I went last week, it was a national holiday here in China, and so thousands of Chinese were also visiting the warriors. The queue for the bus was possibly 6-7 hundred people long. However, reassured by a thick flock of buses, my boyfriend and I stuck it out and it only took 45minutes to queue for a 7 Yuan (70p) bus. Other friends were frightened by the queue and forked out 250Yuan for a tour (25GBP).

A Stone warrior
This warrior’s hand is raised as originally they carried weapons to protect the Emperor
The terracotta army
Pit 1, the pit with the most warriors.

After an hour’s bus ride, we finally arrived at the site. Whilst queuing for tickets (150Yuan/15GBP per person or 75Yuan/7.5GBP for a student ticket), many people tried telling us we needed a guide, which would cost us an extra 150Yuan, student or non student.  Having already experienced very poor guiding at the Forbidden City in Beijing, and also knowing there were plenty of signs inside the pits containing the warriors, We declined the guides’ offers. Upon entering the pits I struggled to see the warriors, as so many other people were visiting. I was quite glad I didn’t have a guide as there wasn’t enough room!

stone horses
Two bronze chariots with rider and horses have been uncovered

We spent about 3 hours touring the 3 pits and the museum and finished at closing time (5pm). So we rushed to the bus line, ignoring all the sellers with small miniatures, fur skins and other rather useless memorabilia. We saw the bus line from quite a way away. It was easily 1000 people long.

We spotted a foreign couple around half way along the line who confirmed it was the Xi’an bus queue. Discouraged, we decided to go eat instead of queuing. The couple kindly offered for us to join them in the queue after eating, if they were still there. Half and hour and two bowls of noodles later, we spotted the foreign couple  very close to the front. We joined them discreetly and within 10 minutes, we were on a bus on our way home. I daren’t imagine how long we would have queued for had it not been for them!

china wonders
In other pits, only parts have been excavated

archeological dig
The warriors are sometimes found in pieces and much work is needed to reconstruct them

Those who can’t make it to China can probably see a warrior or two in a nearby museum. They are often loaned to museums around the world for expositions. Last year I saw a warrior stood in the British Museum.

wonders of china
The Terracotta Army includes warriors and horses

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