One of the most impressive aspects of my trip to Xi’an was witnessing the Terra-Cotta soldiers. I was quite mesmerized by this experience, and thought it deserves a separate post. Most people who’ve seen it says the experience is somewhat overrated, and I certainly can see why this may be. Nevertheless, I found the ancient relics to be most fascinating.
Thanks to Lonely Planet’s suggestion, we visited the exhibition halls in reverse – from the smallest to the largest, building up the anticipation. Much like visiting roman ruins in Tunisia, or the bathhouse in Bath, England, the terra cotta soldiers were exposed, and not caged in glass. I actually was rather surprised at how exposed the statues were. You can see water bottles that were accidentally dropped by tourists in the various pits.
I think people of my generations are entirely far too spoiled by information and exposure to evidence of history. Theses days, you can be in the Roman Coliseum in the (early) morning and be at the Great Wall of China by (late) evening (and if you hustle). The individually unique soldiers (thousands of them, and no two faces are alike) were built around 250 AD. There are different kinds of soldiers, chariots, horses, etc. Rows and rows of these ancient relics, and there are parts that have yet been excavated.
The intricacy is most impressive, and all I can think about is how OLD these things are. Yet these days, with all of our technology, nothing nearly as impressive is being built. This brings another interesting point as to why not – the world we live in today is much less oppressive, and no individual can order mass number of people to produce anything quite like this. This is a good thing. It comes back again to tradeoffs – you win some, and you lose some.
Finally, what astounded me the most is that these ancient relics were not discovered until 1970s by a farmer in China. Whoa! What a discovery! I hope the Chinese government is taking good care of his family these days. For some reason, I thought these soldiers were a known knowledge, for decades, like the Great Wall. It then occurred to me that this ancient history is relatively new news, so new that when my parents were kids, this wasn’t even in the history books. Mind blown.
The museum is a 40-min cab ride outside of Xi’an, and it’s definitely worth the trek. If you speak Chinese, you can learn a lot about the locals by chatting with the cab driver. My driver and I had the most amusing conversation riding back into the city. He started with, “You aren’t from around here, are you?” When people try to guess where I am from, I always like to play a little game. I said no, I’m from the US. “What? You don’t look like you are from the U.S.” And then goes on a 15-minute conversation as to what an American should look like. Thanks to my Peace Corps days, I am a pro at these convos.
Upon returning to Xi’an, we settled into a café for a few hours to unwind and write postcards to share the incredible journey that we’ve had. If you are lucky, you may be getting something in your inbox soon! Experiences are best to be shared, whether with delightful travel companions, of with loved ones abroad.