As promised last week, this week I’ll be talking about what we were up to when we got back to Xi’an. For those unsure, Xi’an’s most popular attraction is the Terracotta Army Museum, sculptures depicting the armies of the Qin Dynasty’s Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. We left bright and early and headed towards the museum. It’s about 60-90mins’ drive away from Xi’an, and the easiest way to get there would be by taxi. Expect to pay around 150RMB one-way.
I have to admit, I went in not knowing what to expect. There are some people who will approach you while you’re buying tickets and offer you guide services. My advice? If you’re planning to hire a guide, do it inside. They cost around 90RMB for a Mandarin-speaking tour. If you hire them outside, you’ll have to buy the guide a ticket, on top of their guide price, so definitely wait till you’re inside and hire the “official” guides. Unfortunately, English-speaking guides are not exactly common, and if you’d like one, I’d advise you to go early because there’s only a couple of them and they usually get approached by the early crowd. A tour lasts around 2 hours, so you’ll be waiting for awhile if you insist on a guide. My mandarin honestly isn’t the best, my partner says it’s at a primary 6 level (I disagree!!) but I had no choice, and I think I came away understanding around 40% of what our guide was saying, haha!
Anyway, less talk, more pictures, that’s what you came for! So here they are:
Aren’t they spectacular? The details, the sheer vastness of the place, it’s incredible. A few facts I’ve learned during the tour:
- Approximately 700,000 people during construction of these armies.
- To pay for the construction of the armies, the courts taxed the civilians extremely heavily. The civilians absolutely loathed the project, but were powerless to do anything about it.
- The faces you see have grown through many “drafts” and no two sculptures are the same. Craftsmen who were not able to sculpt realistic faces were beheaded.
- The soldiers are generally between 170-190cm tall. This is not reflective of the actual heights of the people then though, but chosen because it represented the optimal height they wished of the soldiers.
- Anyone involved in, or had knowledge of the project was killed once it was completed. This was common practice in China, so as to ensure the secrecy of the burial grounds. Such grounds are meant to be forever kept in secret, but as we all know, a farmer accidentally discovered this mausoleum.
I have so much more appreciation for Chinese history after visiting this amazing site. I mean, China gets a bad rep for quality in our modern society (although I honestly think it’s not completely justified sometimes), but who could deny the skill and craftsmanship of Chinese culture as a whole? Sadly, such workmanship has been lost through the centuries. I was discussing this with my partner, and he made this point; “the issue with Chinese people is, they don’t like to share their skills with others, for fear of others stealing their ideas.” I guess that’s true of everyone, which is why the patent system was invented, albeit too late!
That’s all for today, this was longer than expected, but I’ll be showing you a photo collage of Xi’an’s muslim quarters food options in the next post – Get ready for mouth-watering treats! If you’re in Xi’an, that’s definitely the place for food!