As with all tourist attractions in China nowadays, the amazing Terracotta Army in Xi’an is absolutely crowded, noisy, and more than a little dirty!
These Terracotta Warriors are depicting the armies of the first ever Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The whole thing here is what is known as ‘funerary art’ (I had to look that up), and the Emperor is buried with them, the purpose being to protect them army in its afterlife. The Terracotta Army may date from as far back as the 3rd century, but it was on in 1974 that some local farmers from Xi’an discovered them. It is now deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I paid CNY150 for admission to the site, and while that is relatively expensive (£15), I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity – it was the main reason I came to Xi’an, after all!
I was very impressed with the preservation that had gone on here and upon closer inspection with a good zoom lens, you could imagine these warriors had died only yesterday. You can even see individual facial expressions and hairstyles on these life-sized warriors. You should realise that the members of the Terracotta Army are dressed in accordance to their rank (and this includes their hairstyles), with the generals being the tallest. Originally, these warriors also carried weapons, such as swords, but most of these were thought to have been looted soon after burial.
There are 4 pits here, with the fourth one being empty, and Pit 1 is clearly the largest and the most impressive, as it has 11 rows of warriors, each dug 7ft down into the ground and about 10ft wide. Pit 1 includes most of the actual low-ranked warriors themselves, whereas Pit 2 has the cavalry and infantry units (complete with horses), and Pit 3 includes high-ranking officers and some war chariots. Many of the warriors from the Terracotta Army have been damaged, and while it is fair to assume this has occurred naturally over time (they have been buried for centuries, after all), I actually learned that this damaged occurred during the looting of weapons. There is on-going restoration to try to return these damaged warriors to something close to their original state.
When you get over the sheer volume of people that come here to see the Terracotta Army (most of them are Chinese nationals), you will really come to understand that you are seeing an amazing piece if history before your eyes. The noise in here is deafening though, as the number of noisy tourists and the tendency of the hall to echo means it can hurt the eardrums sometimes. However, you should not let this affect your enjoyment too much. English-speaking guides are available for CNY100, but I was happy to walk through the exhibitions myself, having read up on its history the night before, and I think this is sufficient; I would not recommend hiring a guide.
I took the Tourist Bus 306 from Xi’an Railway Station to see the Terracotta Army, and I think the fare was around CNY8 for the hour long journey each way, but while it is very cheap, I later learned that there is also a free shuttle bus doing the route as well, so you may want to see where you can catch it!