For New Year we decided to go away for a few days as we had over a week off work. We decided on Xi’an in central China as we’ve both always wanted to see the Terracotta Warriors and the city of Xi’an has plenty of other interesting things to see and do as well.
Terracotta Warriors or Bingma Yong.
Seeing the Terracotta Warriors is one of those things that’s listed on every must-see when in China lists. Sometimes these things can be over-hyped and a bit of a let down but the Terracotta Warriors were well and truly worth the journey and very cool to see.
The site was originally found by farmers digging in their fields in 1974 and was later sold to the state and more recently became a UNESCO world heritage site and internationally famous tourist hotspot. The warriors depict the army of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. The warriors, horses and chariots were buried with the Emperor when he died 210-209 BCE to protect him in the afterlife.
The statues vary in height but were life-size and the faces were different using a blend of the real soldier’s face and a bit of artistic license. Originally they were also individually painted and there are estimates that between the three pits that are still being excavated there were roughly 8000 soldiers with weapons.
Here’s an image of how they would have looked when originally painted:
Aside from visiting the warriors we also spent some time finding out more about the history of Xi’an, exploring it’s many side-streets and visiting other touristy places. One such place is Muslim Street where there are actually quite a few very narrow streets that entwine to form a large market with lots of interesting foods to buy and things to look at. We took a wander down these streets and tried to capture some of it on film, which you can watch below:
Xi’an is also famous for it’s city wall that encompasses the heart of the city (and makes it very east to navigate.) You can actually walk or cycle along the top of the wall but we didn’t have time (and it was freezing cold) but we got to admire it from the taxi ride in and out of the fortification and at night it’s very pretty when it’s all lit up.
Da Yanta or Big (wild) Goose Pagoda.
Da Yanta, as it’s known locally, is a large pagoda surrounded by a complex showcasing Buddhist and Taoist architecture, statues and stories. The most interesting was the story of monk master Xuanzang who journeyed from Xi’an to India.
Courtesy of Wikipedia:
Xuanzang (Chinese: 玄奘; c. 602 – 664), born Chen Hui or Chen Yi, was a Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveller, and translator who described the interaction between China and India in the early Tang dynasty…
…he later travelled throughout China in search of sacred books of Buddhism. At length, he came to Chang’an (Xi’an), then …Xuanzang developed the desire to visit India. He … was concerned about the incomplete and misinterpreted nature of the Buddhist texts that had reached China.
He became famous for his seventeen-year overland journey to India, which is recorded in detail in the classic Chinese text Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, which in turn provided the inspiration for the novel Journey to the West written by Wu Cheng’en during the Ming dynasty, around nine centuries after Xuanzang’s death.
You can pay extra to go inside the pagoda itself but entrance prices were pretty steep and you also have to pay just to walk around the complex so we just admired the view from the complex below.
We ate very well in Xi’an and had many feasts of good tasting Western food. We found an Indian restaurant called, Delhi Darbar near the pagoda that served delicious, authentic Indian food and it was very reasonably priced so we went there twice. We also found another restaurant called Caprice that served Western and Italian dishes where I had the poshest mash I’ve ever seen – I thought it was a dessert when it came out, but it was very scrummy. We also found a Pizza Hut and unlike the one here it tasted like Pizza Hut back home and had some really nice black forest gateau dessert too. It was a tad expensive though especially when it’s the first place you go after a flight and checking into your hotel when you’re starving.
Overall, we had a great time in Xi’an and despite it being the low season we found it was a very good time of year to go as there was no pollution, clear sunny blue skies (although it was rather cold) and not too many other tourists at all of the attractions. We spent New Year’s Eve at the Indian restaurant and then went for a coffee and some green tea cake across the road where we talked about our plans for next year. We weren’t aware of any New Year festivities that may have been taking place and when we tried to ask at the tourist information they were confused as to what we meant. However, we had a lovely hotel that even had heating (Kunming, heating *hint hint*) and some staff who spoke English. The Warriors are about an hour drive out of town and as long as you keep saying no to everyone trying to sell you stuff including guided tours then once you’re inside you can walk around by yourself and there’s plenty of English everywhere so you don’t need a guide. The pagoda was interesting and definitely worth a look but expensive especially if you’ve just spent 150 each getting into the warriors the day before. That said, Xian is a modern city with plenty to see and do and lots of tasty food. Worth every penny.
On our taxi ride back to the airport our driver put on some music and as I don’t normally get to listen to Chinese music I recorded some using my camera. The video doesn’t have much to look at just the bit between Xi’an city and the airport but the music is cool.