The Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an
The journey to get to the Terracotta museum is not as difficult as the tour groups want you to believe. As long as you find Bus 5 right by the old train station in Xi’an, it will take you all the way to the museum at a fraction of the price that you’d pay with a tour group. The station is a shit show though and you must battle your way through many people wanting to drive you to the museum; not dissimilar to any major transit area in Asia.
When we arrived at grounds we were surprised by the price of 150 yuan as our newest Lonely Planet stated 90 yuan but of course we paid it because we came all the way to Xi’an to see them.
Travel Tip: If you have a student pass, bring it for 50% off.
It is a long way up to the actual site of the warriors and they offer a tram service for an added cost. If you elect not to do this, you must walk about 15 minutes through vendor city and then go through two separate gates where they check your bag and your ticket at both. Tight security!
The bus, the ticket price and the long walk were all worth it though, as we gazed out over the pits and saw rows upon rows of beautifully constructed stone warriors, each one different from the next. Dating back to 210 B.C., it’s easy to see how this is the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century.
The Army of Qin Shi Huang (the first emperor of China) was accidentally discovered in 1974 by farmers who were digging a water well. As many as 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses are said to be buried in three major pits. One of the things that brought out our deepest inner nerds, was the fact that there are still thousands of warriors who have yet to be uncovered! While walking around the pits you can actually see the figures that the archaeologists are putting back together. We would have loved to grab a spade and brush and lent a hand, but later learned what meticulous work restoration was.
In glass cases around the pits they have on display the different types of figures of archers, infantry, and high ranking generals, allowing everyone to get an up close and personal view of the intricate detail put into each and every warrior.
A couple closing recommendations: Visit the theatre first for a 1980’s produced film chronicling the events leading up to the uncovering the warriors, then visit the pits in reverse order (3,2, leaving pit #1 as the grande finale). We’d also recommend going the site on your own and not with a tour group so you’re not rushed through and you can head into the pits when the big groups head back to their buses. Having a guide would have been very helpful and we recommend you barter with a guide outside the main gates otherwise you’ll have to sidle up to tour groups like we did try to eavesdrop which is hard to do and they tend to catch on pretty quick 😉
Alyse and I believe that if you love history, culture and archaeology like us, then you will absolutely love visiting the Terracotta Warriors.
Ross and Alyse