Day 9: Xian

April 19, 2010

After enjoying the free breakfast in our hotel,  we got a cab and headed for Xian’s train station.  We had two goals here: buy train tickets to Beijing and locate the bus that would take us to the Terracotta Warriors.

At the station, a guard directed us to an English-speaking ticket window, but the line was long and unmoving.  Eventually we gave up, stepped over to the empty “Ticket Refund” window, and using limited English and a little pointing, we bought two soft-sleeper tickets on tomorrow’s overnight-express train to Beijing.   The station was packed and chaotic, so we wandered around until we were pretty certain where to find our train, Matt deeming it would be a miracle if we managed to do so successfully and make it to Beijing. 🙂

Xian Railway Station


Xian is a major rail hub in China

I knew from my research there were buses to the Warriors that left from a big parking lot near the train station, but we had difficulty finding them until a helpful stranger pointed us in the right direction.  There were several of them lined up and each would leave when it was full.  We boarded a nice coach bus, paid the $1 fare, and arrived in an hour.

The Terracotta Warriors are part of a massive mausoleum built for Qin Shihuang, who became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 B.C.   His tomb complex took nearly 40 years to build using over 700,000 workers and was essentially designed to contain everything he needed in his living life in his afterlife as well, including an army, weapons, horses, and chariots.   After his death, looting soldiers set fire to the entire thing, crashing the vault’s wooden support beams and tons of earth onto the statues, burying them completely until 1974, when farmers digging a well uncovered some pieces of pottery.  Most of the tomb has yet to be excavated, but over 1000 warrior statues have already been pieced back together, as well as an assortment of horses, weapons, and tools.

Walking to Terracotta Warrior Museum

We visited three pits, each in various stages of excavation, and a museum with many finished statues and pieces.  All were impressive, though the main pit holding thousands of warriors standing guard was even more so.  Incredibly, every soldier was sculpted with unique facial features and outfits; we marveled at the detail that had gone into each one.

Pit 2: Much of it is still uncovered


Pit 2: Close-up of statue fragments


Pit 3: A charioteer stands guard at entrance


Pit 3: Warriors stand in an apparent military headquarters

In the main pit, we could see the site of the well that was being dug when the vaults were found.   The weapons the soldiers were holding are lost from decay, though we learned that their bronze blades were still sharp upon excavation.

A wide view of the main vault


Warriors arranged according to rank and duty


Guarding the entrance


Matt and the warriors

After touring the vaults, we braved the gauntlet of souvenir stands and bargained for a couple bronze replica statues to take home.  As we walked out, we noticed a guy standing outside his restaurant twirling and pulling noodles, shouting, “HELLO!!! NOOOOODDDLLEEESS!” at every single person who walked by, and we decided to try some.

Delicious hand-pulled noodles with beef and green onions

We found our bus and headed back to the train station.  We decided to spend the rest of the evening walking through the city center and its Muslim quarter, and dinner would be whatever street food looked good.  The weather was dry and warm, around 70 degrees; it was a nice change from the rain in Yangshuo.

Directing traffic downtown Xian


Not sure this is going to work out very well

Xian has a large Muslim community, and just east of its Great Mosque is a famous snack street loaded with stalls selling everything from lamb kebabs to flatbread to dumplings.  We strolled along, looking through souvenir stands and buying various things to eat.  Street food is the way to go in Xian; it is delicious and super cheap.  Here is a list of everything we bought to eat and drink today: big bowl of noodle soup, two skewers of spicy squid, five skewers of grilled beef, flatbread sprinkled with herbs and chilies, big bowl of chopped beef mixed with finely ground wheat, an ice cream bar, two ice cream cones, a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, four bottles of water, and two bottles of Coke.  Grand total: $10. 

Warm flatbreads sprinkled with herbs and chilies


Cooking a huge pot of chopped beef with fine-ground wheat


Xian's Muslim Quarter

We walked home after another great day; tomorrow we’ll explore more of the city before catching our train to Beijing.

6 Responses to “Day 9: Xian”

  1. That excavation site is amazing! I can’t wait to see more pictures of that. I love this blog…I get mad when I check to see if an update has been made and the new day is not updated yet! 🙂

  2. I agree with Kate; here I am checking the computer at 1:30 in the morning looking for an update because I haven’t seen one for two days! I am so impressed with the museum, AND Xian was an answer in my crossword puzzle today, and now I actually know about the city! I also have to go eat something because your blog made me hungry. I’m sure it takes time and energy to do these blogs, looking through all the pictures and then writing about it all, but you have quite a few people back home looking forward to each one. Love, Mom and Dad

  3. So glad you are finally enjoying some moisture free weather! The terracotta warriors/archeological site looks absolutely amazing! Xian looks very interesting. Say, does that rather overloaded bike rider suggest a possible moving scenario for you two? 🙂 Will be anxiously looking for day 10…hugs, mom

  4. This is our first comment, but we want you to know we check your blog everyday! We look forward to your history and geography lesson each day. We are all amazed at everything you are seeing and experiencing. Matt, great job on the camera. The pictures are incredible! Can’t wait to see more. Obviously, Drew loves the warrior pictures. The food looks so good and we’re looking forward to tasting some of your new recipes. Maybe the food theme for our next family get together will be Chinese (but you would still have to make the chocolate cake, too!). Love ya! Aunt Kathy, Uncle Mark, Mandy, Drew & Snickers

  5. Wow! These pics and descriptions really make me want to visit China.

    -Nate

  6. I’m pretty sure some of our vendors use that bike transportation method shown in the picture above…at least it would explain a lot of things!

    As always – awesome pics!!! Must have been an amazing experience to see the Terracotta soldiers (this coming from the history nerd…)

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