For me, China was a roller coaster of highs and lows.
Being scammed, leaving my rucksack containing my passport on a bus and getting to Beijing airport only to discover that my flight to Delhi had been cancelled, were understandably, definite lows (don’t worry, I’m not still stranded in Beijing airport – my passport was retrieved and I did eventually make it to India). However, getting the rare opportunity to visit the Great Wall of China (check out The Student Travels great post on the Great Wall here) and the chance to see the Terracotta Army in all its glory, were highs, which definitely outweighed the lows… bad experiences such as these ones, only add to the experience anyway, don’t they…?
The Terracotta Army is a unique masterpiece, situated 12 hours South of Beijing, in the ancient city of Xian.
When you put the concept of the Terracotta Army in perspective, it is just unbelievable… (apologies for the brief history lesson, which is about to follow).
In the late third century BCE, the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang ordered approximately 700,000 workers to carve an Army to protect him in the afterlife. Consisting of around 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, he had each sculpture individually carved using local people as inspiration thus, ensuring that every soldier was different and lifelike… It is rumored that deadly booby-traps were planted in the tomb to protect the Army and any treasure that was buried in it.
The tomb was discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a water well and have been being excavated and admired ever since.
When visiting the tomb, there are three pits containing Qin Shi Huang’s Terracotta Army, each of which are in different stages of excavation and restoration. Pit one is the most breathtaking. Containing line upon line of lifelike warriors, carved at different heights and with varying hair styles, expressions, uniforms, gestures and facial hair, it is the largest and most impressive pit of the three.
Although pit two and three are definitely still worth a visit, they are no way near as restored, organised or vast as pit one. Therefore, I would recommend starting at pit three and working your way back, otherwise your visit might become a bit of an anti-climax.
TOP TIPS AND INFO:
– Read up about the history of the Army. If you don’t understand the context of what you are looking at, they are going to look like a load of weird terracotta men standing in a row in a room. If you don’t have time to learn about the history beforehand, pay for a guide, it will make your experience a lot more worthwhile and memorable!
– Get a bus to the museum. It takes around an hour to get there and is cheap as chips (around 70p-£1 each way). The bus you need is bus 5 (306), which you will find sat opposite Xian train station.
– Entry cost is around 150RMB (approx £15). If you want to be a dare-devil like I was, try showing your driving license and say it is a student card to get student discount… it worked for us however, if you end up looking like I fool (which also happened to me later on in my trip), I take no responsibility. Alas, if it works, you heard it here, on The Globe-Trotting Graduate first!!
– The museum is open all year round, 8.30am – 5.30pm.