Travel Report Ten

Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors

Xi’an was once the capital of the growing Chinese empire, and it’s importance in antiquity ranks with that of Athens and Rome. It enjoyed a similar heyday to those European cities, but, like China itself, with a greater continuity of civilisation.

More than 2200 years ago, the emperor Qin Shi Huang, who, as a result of conquering neighbouring kingdoms, is generally credited as the creator of unified China, and ordered the modelling of an entire army of clay. His empire, though, was significantly smaller than present day China.

Central Xi’an is a simple grid. North (bei), south (nan), east (dong) and west (xi) – the names of key roads within the city walls reveal words that are used in many Chinese place names, including Xi’an (western haven or shelter) itself. Da means big, main, senior. Jie is lane.

The city is more than 3000 years old, but the the walls are more recent, having been built about 700 years ago.

The walls are almost 14km long, and about 15m wide at the top. It’s possible to walk the entire circuit, or to hire bicycles.

Recommendation: Stay at a hotel within the walls. At all costs avoid China’s holiday periods.

The emperor’s mausoleum area and the large buildings that hold the army, where they were found, is not in Xi’an but more than an hour’s journey outside the city. There are buses and taxis from the city railway station.
Every figure is facially distinct, as if cast from an individual, and this does indeed seem to be what was done. The emperor honoured every soldier.

Soldiers, chariots, horses, unearthed from several metres below ground … the rows are all the more impressive given the fact that there are many more still buried in the ground. The best way to keep them in something close to their original condition is to leave them where they are for another millennium or two.

Xi’an has a famous ‘Muslim Street’, or Huimin Street, full of market stalls and busy with locals and tourists. Haggling is the norm here. Nearby is the Grand Mosque, which can accommodate 1000 people.

Soldiers, chariots, horses, unearthed from several metres below ground … the rows are all the more impressive given the fact that there are many more still buried in the ground. The best way to keep them in something close to their original condition is to leave them where they are for another millennium or two.

in the Muslim Quarter there are many food specialities, and mutton dishes are especially famous.
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