Not the best night sleep but an experience nevertheless. Our Chengdu to Xi’an sleeper train had lights out at just after 23.00 and then back on at 6.30 with food sellers and drink sellers passing through, calling out and generally making a lot of noise. It was time to wake up!
We arrived in a cold, grey, drizzly Xi’an at 8.05 as scheduled where we transferred onto a private coach to take us to the HNA Business Hotel in downtown Xi’an. The lobby is nice, the room is good, the bathroom is good and the towels are white and fluffy – at last! We were able to check in when we arrived at 9.30 and have a shower and change of clothes before meeting up in the lobby at 10.30. It was then back on our coach and off to see The Terracotta Army, a journey that took an hour through amazingly heavy traffic in all directions. We had a dedicated guide, Roger, who travelled with us to give us the history of this amazing discovery.
The site of The Terracotta Army was discovered by a group of peasants who uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby to the royal tomb in 1974. It caught the attention of archeologists who immediately came to Xi’an in droves to study and extend the digs and established beyond doubt that these artifacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty.
The Terracotta Army is a large collection of terracotta sculptures reproducing the imperial guard troops of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210BC), the first emperor of the first unified dynasty of Imperial China. Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13, Emperor Qin Shi Huang began to prepare for his mausoleum and it took 11 years to finish. The Terracotta Army was constructed to accompany the tomb of the Emperor as an afterlife guard. The thousands of detailed life-size models were molded in parts, fired, then assembled and painted.
The State Council authorised the building of a museum on the site in 1975. The museum covers an area of 16,300 square meters and is divided into three sections: No. 1 Pit, No. 2 Pit, and No. 3 Pit respectively. They were tagged in the order of their discoveries. No. 1 Pit is the largest and first opened to the public on China’s National Day, October 1st, 1979.
The museum buildings and surrounding park are all done extremely well (as is everything here in China) and is incredible. The scale of the find and the detail of the Terracotta Army figures is unbelievable with no two figures being the same.
Once we got back we had a couple of hours of much needed downtime as we were all feeling a bit weary from the less than perfect nights sleep the previous night. We all met up once again in the lobby at 18.30 to go on a brief orientation walk with Ricky before being taken to a famous Xi’an restaurant for a Dumpling Banquet, dumplings being the local specialty of Xi’an. Our Dumpling Banquet was fantastic and we were served with a total of 16 different types of dumplings during the course of the meal – all of which were deliciously tasty. Apparently they eat very little rice in this part of China as they can’t grow rice here due to the lack of water so eat noodles and dumplings instead.
Xi’an is a busy vibrant city and is the capital of Shaanxi Province, located in the centre of the Guanzhong Plain in Northwest China. Xi’an has a population of nearly 9 million and is the most populous city in Northwest China. The majority of Xi’an residents are Han Chinese, who make up 99.1 percent of the city’s total population. It is one of the oldest cities in China and Xi’an is a beginning and end of the Silk Road. Since the 1990s, as part of the economic revival of inland China, Xi’an has re-emerged as an important cultural, industrial and educational centre of the central-northwest region, with facilities for research and development, national security and China’s space exploration program.
After dinner Mr L and I spent an hour or so wandering around the bright, busy, frenetic Muslim Market in the Muslim Quarter which has been the home of the city’s Hui community, non-Uighur Chinese Muslims, for centuries.
The narrow lanes are full of all sorts of shops and food stalls. The Muslim community in Xi’an is home to over 20,000 Muslims. There are about ten mosques in the area of the Muslim Quarter, among which the Great Mosque in the Huajue Lane is the most famous and popular. We plan to go back and visit the Mosque on Sunday morning and if we have time to also go and see the city wall. Xi’an City Wall is the most complete city wall that has survived in China and is 8.5 miles to walk or cycle along.
There are two major landmarks visible on the Xi’an skyline – the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower. The Drum Tower is located northwest of the Bell Tower of Xi’an, across the Bell Tower and Drum Tower Square. Both of them are called the ‘sister buildings’ or ‘morning bell and dark drum’; the Bell Tower used to have a bell that was rung at dawn and the Drum Tower was used to marked nightfall. In ancient China, especially from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), the drums were also used as an alarm in emergency situations.
Definitely feeling weary now so time to head back to the hotel and catch up on some much needed sleep.
Distance walked: 20,145 steps / 8.69 miles