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Terracotta Warriors

A mighty Xi'an army — the Terracotta Warriors
by Elizabeth Willoughby
As was customary back in 3rd-century BC in China, once a man came to the throne, he would begin his own mausoleum's design and burial ceremony plans – not to be pessimistic, but rather to make sure things would be done just right.

In the case of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BCE), at age 21 he had big plans indeed. According to Records of the Historian, while the First Emperor King of Qin was out conquering and unifying six other states, more than 700,000 conscripts from across the country were working on the construction of his massive tomb.

A subterranean palace, the mausoleum took 37 years to complete, and it covers some 56 square kilometers. Naturally, a palace needs guards, and this one was no exception. Emperor Huang arranged for an army of protection, made of terracotta. The entire project was completed shortly after his death in 210 BCE.

A few years later, in 1974 CE, a farmer in Xiyang village (Lintong district in Xi’an) was drilling for water, but encountered a pit instead. In the pit were the now famous Xi’an Terracotta Warriors, and it is estimated to hold around 6,000 figures. Then two more pits were found. Thousands of life-sized soldiers, horses, and chariots were set in place over 2,000 years ago, ready to march up the ramps from underground when called upon to defend in the afterlife.

Largely left buried for its own protection from the elements, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must see.

  • •  Take the time to visit the on-site museum to see details up close on the figures that demonstrate the varying uniforms and hair styles of the different warrior and officer ranks, as well as ethnic facial features and distinct expressions.
  • •  While in Xi’an, go for a bicycle ride around the top of the Ming-era (1370) old city walls. They are 12 meters high and 14 kilometers around, with towers, a bumpy stone road and great views of the inner city and outside as well. Bike rental is on the top of the wall.
  • •  Visit the Great Mosque in Xi’an, one of China’s largest mosques. It is interesting to see the Chinese influence on the buildings’ architecture and gardens juxtaposed with the Arabic influence on the buildings further in. It’s also a welcome reprieve from a hot day.
  • •  Recommended English-speaking guide in Xi’an: Christina Chen christinachen2009@163.com

This article was originally published in September 2015 here on Examiner.com.

© Elizabeth Willoughby 2015

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