Naturally on our must do list whilst in Xi’an was to pay a visit to the Terracotta Army. I also fancied visiting the tomb of Emperor Jingdi which I had read about. Upon arriving at our hostel we saw how much they were wanting to charge to take tours of people there and it seemed a bit exorbitant. Also, going on a tour meant we couldn’t look at thing at our own pace, which given that we would be spending the best part of £50 for the two of us for each tour seemed a bit daft. So we looked into how to get to each of these sites independently.
The Terracotta Army dates back to the birth of modern China and was built to guard the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang the first unifier of the warring states of China.
This was the simpler one to get to so we did this on our first day. We walked to the North Train Station which is just outside the city walls. Then, facing the train station, we headed to the right hand side where there was a series of coaches parked up there. Not all of these go to the Terracotta Army so look out for the ones that have it written on the side and then hop on. On the way out our bus was green and the fare was 9 Yuan each and on the way back the bus was blue and a bit older looking and the fare was 8 Yuan each, bargain!
It isn’t actually obvious when you get to the entrance that it is in fact the stop for the Terracotta Army, try to get the bus conductor to let you know when to get off, although they will have probably guessed already where you are going as you will probably be the only foreigner on the bus! Don’t miss your stop though as the bus doesn’t terminate here, I’m not sure where it finally ends up!
We worked our way round the pits in reverse starting at pit 3 which contained a few excavated warriors and horses.
Then we moved onto pit 2 which has yet to be excavated, but has some warriors in cases at the side so you can get a good close up look at them.
Then we moved on to pit 1 which was the showpiece pit containing the bulk of the warriors that have been excavated to date. The excavation is ongoing so you could see the work in progress that is being done. The whole thing and the scale of it was very impressive.
Pit 1 was pretty hellish to go round unfortunately. Lots of pushing and shoving from photo hungry Chinese tourists. We noticed that this got worse during our time in the pit so came to the conclusion that lunch time, which was when we had entered, was a better time to visit and that the hoards arriving afterwards must have been the afternoon tour groups.
I was also accosted for another photo, you can see the look of fear in my eyes this time as she had a rather firm grip on my arm!:
Emperor Jingdi’s tomb
On our second day in Xi’an we ventured out to see Emperor Jingdi’s tomb. This is another tomb with terracotta figures, but the difference here is that Emperor Jingdi was more focused on every day practicalities in the afterlife. He ensured he had plenty of food and servants so that he would be comfortable.
This one was a bit more tricky to get to, but I’m proud to say we managed it. We caught the brand shiny new Xi’an Metro to Shi Tu Shu Guan (translated on some metro maps to Xi’an Library), took exit D from the station where the bus stop we needed was right outside the exit. From there the 4 bus took us right up to the entrance where it then terminates. It cost us each in total 4 Yuan each way. Not bad at all!
Once we were there the difference from the experience at the Terracotta Army the day before was remarkable. There was practically no one there! It was heavenly. No pushing, no shoving.
We took our time walking round the museum which is built over the excavation pits giving you a fantastic view down into each one where the archeological finds are still in situ. The highlight though was at the end where they take the walkway down and you are walking between two pits level with the contents still in place partially buried right next to you.
This was a much closer experience than the day before. To be fair though this was a much newer museum so would have been designed more with visitor experience in mind, the Terracotta Army was still spectacular to see. It was good to see both sights and the contrast between them.
The rest of the site contains the burial mounds of the Emperor and the Empress, pretty rose gardens and another slightly older looking museum which gives more details about the site and the wonders that gave been discovered there. In the future when more has been excavated I could well see this being another ‘big ticket’ attraction drawing people in by the bus load to see it. We were glad to see it now and to enjoy it in a leisurely quiet manner!