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November 21, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

We said goodbye to Yangshou for a final time before a 1½ drive to Guilin airport and a finally goodbye to Wayne who was leaving for Hong Kong and then the 1 hour 40 minute flight to Xi’an, the home of the Terracotta Warriors.  We arrived late afternoon and retired early after dinner looking forward to the next day.

Another western breakfast in our very nice hotel which was crowded with westerners so we knew we were in the middle of a serious tourist spot.  It took about two hours by bus to arrive at the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and we were let loose to explore this immense and amazing sight.  In 1974, some farmer digging a well found some ceramic bits and instantly made themselves famous.  The main pit is enclosed in an immense “shed” the size of several football fields and half the area has been excavated and the other half is work-in-progress which will take years to complete as many of the life sized figures have been seriously damaged.

Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.  All this because the Emperor wanted an army to protect him in the afterlife. 

And what an army!

The next day turned out somewhat bleak and rain threatened but it didn’t stop Vincent hiring bikes for a 14k tour of Xian’s city walls which was most enjoyable.  We’d been spoiled with our new mountain bikes and now had put up with single speed pieces of junk older than me but who’s whinging!

Peering over the immense walls from time to time revealed a glimpse of life in China; buildings going up everywhere, insidiously creeping crappy western culture, lively markets and people out enjoying themselves with dancing and Tai Chi in the early morning chill.

In the afternoon, we were dragged off in the rain and cold icy wind to view a huge golden Buddha but I’ve had my fill of huge Buddha’s over the years and soon found a warm and dry museum with a seat in the corner to meditate and examine my navel fluff.

The boss found us a good restaurant for dinner and gave us about 90 minutes after that to drive a few blocks to the railway station to catch the overnight train to Beijing.  You’d think it would be heaps of time to manage such a simple task, but hey, this is a country with umpteen billion people and a fair portion of them about to catch a train or two in Xi’an themselves.  Throw in a Chinese traffic snarl and massive roadworks around the station which required us to be dropped about a kilometre away with our luggage and suddenly mad panic ensued.

Dragging our packs and bags through puddles and hordes of people, we finally made the station and steamrolled our way through masses of humanity to the Beijing train platform and we all stood panting and sweating in front of carriage 23 to be informed by Vincent that we were actually in carriage number 1 about a bloody kilometre away.

It’s quite an experience running along a platform with a backpack and thinking that falling with 18 kilo on my back could iron out a few wrinkles on my face.  We finally found our carriage and threw our packs onto our bunks and I remember sitting there getting my breath back when the train suddenly started moving.

Too close for comfort.

  1. june in florida
    November 22, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Wariors are incredible. I would have liked to have seen the farmers face when he first discovered them. Trains look reasonably comfy.

    Train was modern and very comfortable. I’ll mention more in the next post.

  2. Thomas Houseman
    November 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Ahh lovely pollution in some of those shots. Reminds me of my trip to Taiwan in 2000. Never seen such smog in my life!

    Yes, you couldn’t get away from the smog as it permeates the country. Our first day in Beijing and it was a glorious day and a clear blue sky but the next two were back to normal.

  3. AZ
    November 23, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Curious minds want to know where did all the clay come from to make the Terracotta Army, and were the clay figures fired in kilns? Did they find the remnants of the workshops where all the soldiers were made?

    Google Terracotta Warriors for a good selection of answers. The clay was all local and presumably fired in kilns but I don’t know about the workshops.

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