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Hanging out with Terracotta Warriors

Posted on the 13 August 2019 by Cheekymeeky

It's always been a dream of mine to see the fabled Terracotta Warriors since I was a kid. Finally this year, I got to make my wish come true.

The Terracotta warriors are in Xi'an - an ancient capital of China and the starting point of the Silk route.

Xi'an is only 12 hours by train from Beijing. We just jumped in a night sleeper train from Beijing and were in Xi'an bright and early to see the Terracotta warriors. If you take a flight, it is about an hour's travel from Beijing.

Story of the Discovery

The Terracotta army was discovered in 1974 when some farmers were digging a well. Their shoveling began the unearthing of a huge burial pit belonging to the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the founding Qin Dynasty emperor who unified China into a central state and also laid the foundation for the Great Wall.

We actually met the farmer ( Zhao Kangmin) who discovered the army sitting in the gift shop. For a small fee, he will pose with photos for you, or sign a book that you buy. We were kinda skint so don't have this memory to share with you 😀 . He was extremely old though and a little deaf maybe, so our interaction wasn't anything memorable.

Our tour guide did have an interesting story to share about him though. After he made his discovery, he went back to a regular life in poverty. All the farmers actually lost their land to the government for digging without any compensation. It wasn't until the visit of Bill Clinton that his situation changed. One of Clinton's demands was to meet Zhao Kangmin. So, the Chinese government immediately upgraded his home and made it spruce enough for the President to come visit. Now, he gets paid 300 yuan a month to sit in the bookshelf and sign books and pose for photos with tourists.

Getting There

There is a direct bus (Bus no. 306) from the Xi'an railway station to the Terracotta warriors museum. You could even take a cab. If you have booked a tour with a guide, they"ll arrange everything for you.

I have to say though that a tour guide isn't necessary for this expedition. You can read up everything about the history and the place online and the directions in the museum are pretty clear.

My experiences

I was surprised by how huge the place was. The entrance and the parking lot was massive. Once we got our tickets (150 yuan per person), we had to walk through a beautiful park till we reached the pits.

We stopped for some goofy photos on the way 🙂 .

Hanging out with Terracotta WarriorsGoofy ballet practice poses on the way to see the Terracotta warriors

The Terracotta warriors themselves are still in the process of excavation, and they are all in the pits. There are three main pits. Pit 1 is the biggest and most impressive - and where I could see the most detailing.

Hanging out with Terracotta WarriorsOutside pit 1 - so stupid, I had a DSLR, and instead got myself clicked with a crappy phone camera

Pit 3 is much smaller, but this pit has the higher ranking officials, which contained a lot more detail.

Hanging out with Terracotta WarriorsA column of soldiers

What disappointed me

You cannot enter the pits so all we could do was take photos from the top of the pit. With all the crowds and jostling (this place is popular), it was hard to get the right angles. The lighting is also not the best.

So, all the close-ups we got are close-ups with replicas.

Hanging out with Terracotta WarriorsPosing with the replicas of the Terracotta army

  • Hanging out with Terracotta WarriorsAt the factory shop where they manufacture Terracotta soldiers
  • Hanging out with Terracotta WarriorsSnubnose with a favorite

In spite of it all, I really liked the place. It just didn't blow my mind like the Great Wall or the Forbidden Palace, or the other places I saw in China. It met but didn't exceed my expectations.

Tips for visiting

  • Don't shop: That is don't shop unless you have a massive budget. I generally found Xi'an to be very expensive. If you take a tour, the guides stop at a Terracotta factory, where they have the most exquisite Terracotta army chess sets, furniture, and jewelry. But, these are high-end. If budget is not a concern, the quality of the stuff in Xi'an is mind-blowing. If you are on a budget though, shop for the Terracotta army chess sets (and other knick-knacks) in Beijing. Much cheaper!
  • Buy books: If you must buy something, you can buy books about the history and discovery of the Terracotta Army in the museum bookstore. Usually the farmer who was digging the well on that fateful day in 1974 is there signing books. It makes for quite a nice souvenir.
Hanging out with Terracotta Warriors

Nish

Voracious reader, vegetarian foodie, mostly armchair traveler, and frequent online shopper. I love to talk about all these passions (and other things happening in my life) in this blog.


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