Xian 西安

When one is asked to associate something with China there are two main things that people think about, the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors. I knew that I really wanted to see the terracotta warriors before I left and since I don’t have much time left so I decided to take a few days off and make the trip to Xian, where the terracotta warriors are.

Xian is located in the center of the country and is not close to Qinhuangdao. My plan was to get an overnight train from Beijing to Xian but when I went to the ticket office all of those trains were sold out. I was told that there was a train that left from Qinhuangdao that would go to Xian. Due to a mix-up in communication I was told that the train ride would only be 10 hours long, but after checking online I found out that it was a 21 hour train ride, and that’s each way.

So after work on Sunday I got on the train, in which I ordered a hard sleeper ticket. The beds are stacked three high. The first one is about a foot off the ground. The middle one (which I had both ways) is about 5 feet off the ground. And the third bed is about 6½ feet off the ground. The beds are hard boards with a little bit of padding. They are about 5½ feet long by 1½ feet wide. So there is not a lot of room to sprawl out. My feet were hanging off the bed because it was too short.

     

After my 21 hour train ride I finally made it to Xian and the moment I stepped off the train I liked the city. Xian is a nice mix of old and new. Xian is made up of the old city and the new city (kind of like Jerusalem). The old city is surrounded by this giant wall, while the newer buildings are built up outside of the old city. What is nice about Xian, unlike Beijing, is that it is compact; there is a lot to do and it is all within walking distance.

The first day, I decided to see the Terracotta Warriors. I signed up with my hostel on a tour of the site. I’m sure they ripped me off but it was worth not having to deal with all the hassle of trying to get there and such on my own. Plus they provided and English speaking guide. Her name was Zah-Zah. She was this little ball of energy speaking a million miles a minute. She told us that her English name was Lady Zah-Zah. She ended up taking an interest in me. I’m not sure if it was because mine was the only name she remembered or because I was the best looking in the group, but she would always single me out and ask me questions and make me answer questions.

This story behind the terracotta warriors is a fascinating one. They were built by Emperor Qin Shi Huang who wanted to have an army protect him in the after life. So he commissioned the building of a clay army. There four main types of soldiers, infantry, cavalry, archers, and officers. Each terracotta warrior is custom made and fully outfitted with uniforms and weapons, no two warriors are the same. One sculpture would make one warrior and then be put to death. The Emperor didn’t want anyone discovering the location of the army so he killed the sculptors after they finished. The sculptures, knowing that they would be killed, made the soldiers in their own image. They would also sign their names on the sculptures is discrete places, so as their names wouldn’t be lost forever. So far they have discovered over 8 thousand warriors.

  

  

(The four types of statues)

  

(This is the first statue found and only the only one that is fully intact)

There are three main pits that they have discovered. They say that it will be another 10 years before these sites are fully excavated. It is also believed that there are more sites yet to be discovered throughout the valley. The guy who found the statues still hangs around as a local celebrity.

 

  

  

This man discovered the statues and is now a local celebrity

After visiting the Terracotta Warriors I went to visit Xian’s Muslim Quarter. Xian was located on the infamous Silk Road, which connected Europe and the Middle East with Asia. So Islam was brought to the region a long time ago. Walking through the Muslim Quarter reminded me of walking through shuk the Muslim shook in the Old City of Jerusalem. Narrow allies crowded with shops. It was really fun to just wander around, see the sights and sample the food.

  

That night I went to the Big Goose Pagoda. Every night (I guess during the summer) they have a light and fountain show. The place was packed with people and was really cool see. Thank God I’m tall and the Chinese are small because I got stuck in the back but I could still see.

  

 

The next day I decided to walk along the city wall. Once on the wall I saw that I saw that people were riding bikes so I rented a bike for a few hours and made my way around the city. I had a lot of fun, but I definitely got sun burned doing so.

  

Growing up in the Schwarz family we learned to appreciate museums. So there was a great museum called the Shaanxi History Museum which tells the whole history of the region. I got there at 12 o’clock and expected to go right in, but in China everyone takes a long lunch break so I had to wait till 1 pm to come back. So I went for a walk but by the time I made it back to the museum there was a line halfway down the street. I had already waited an hour for it to open and made it all the way there so I just decided to wait in line. It took almost an hour for me to make it all the way through the line, but once inside the museum was very interesting an well done.

 

After the Museum I got lost taking the bus back so I just wandered the streets of Xian. I found a very cool artist street and surrounding the city walls is a park so I wandered through there for a bit as well.

   

I ran back to hostel to take a shower and shit (so I wouldn’t have to go on the train) before I got on the 21 hour train ride back to Qinhuangdao. The ride back wasn’t as good as the ride there. Lights went out at 10 pm so I couldn’t do any late night reading and then they didn’t turn on the AC. So the train just became hotter and smellier. The more I thought about it the more I dwelt upon it and the more I couldn’t fall asleep. It wasn’t until 2:37 am (I know the exact time because I was up the whole time) that they turned on the AC.

All in all I had a great time in Xian. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is traveling through China. The weather was perfect and the people were friendly. Although it turned out that I had to spend two days on a train it was totally worth. it. Now it’s back to work. I got about one more month of work and then my sister, Jennifer, will come and we will do a southern China adventure together.

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About JoelS

Spending a year teaching English and saving the world in China
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