Due to the ending of the semester (a.k.a. finals), I have been too busy to create a new post; however, (in between exams) I was able to make one last trip! After traveling to twelve different cities in China, I decided to end my study abroad experience with a quick trip to Xian. Ever since I arrived in China I have been wanting to see the Terracotta Warriors, so I figured this would be the perfect place to end my travels!
Another friend of mine from my program joined me on this very brief adventure. This past Sunday we flew into Xian, spent Monday seeing the warriors, and flew back home in time for Chinese class on Tuesday. We literally went, saw, and conquered!
Per usual, my friend and I booked a room at a hostel that was conveniently located close to the center of the city. Our hostel was rated the best in Asia and 10th in the world in 2010! Needless to say we were pretty excited. As you can see from the pictures below, we had a pretty cozy setup.
About a 5-minute walk from our hostel was the Bell Tower. The Bell Tower marks the exact center of the city and was ordered to be built by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang in 1384. Today it is considered to be one of the best preserved towers in China.
To get to the Bell Tower, there is an underground walkway that leads to the ticket booth for the tower. As you can see below, before we even reached the entrance, my friend and I had to walk through the tourist trap. They had so many of the same thing!
After buying a few items for gifts (yes, you can bargain and you should!), we finally reached the entrance!
We were able to walk up stairs to the second floor of the tower. The view was beautiful! On every side, coming from the North, South, East and West was a major roadway. We watched for awhile as all of the cars circled around the Bell Tower.
One last picture of the Bell Tower before we headed to its sister tower called the Drum Tower.
Our walk to the Drum Tower..
The Drum Tower and Bell Tower are very close to one another and were often referred to as the "morning bell and dark drum". The drums in the tower were huge and were regularly used as a warning of an oncoming threat.
Here's the expansive view from the Drum Tower. In the second picture can you see the Bell Tower in the distance?
To get an idea at how massive some of the drums really were, I decided to stand next to one. I'm 5'4" by the way..
As the sun began to set, the lights in the city slowly came on. The Drum Tower was also illuminated.
After we finished exploring the sister towers, my friend and I walked around a really cool street. I'm not sure what it was called, but the street was right next to the Drum Tower. You can't miss it, but I definitely recommend going!
The entire street was a fake market that seemed to go on forever! It was funny, though, because pretty much every store had the same items. It made it a lot easier to bargain the price down!
The extremely long street of vendors eventually dumped us out onto another street that was lined with our favorite: street food!
We tried a bunch of things and even met a cute friend along the way.
One last look at the Drum Tower and Bell Tower all lit up!
On our way back to the hostel, we came across a street lined with more street food. It was packed - what we would like to say: it was "poppin"!
I've been sick numerous times in China, so I am always a little wary of the street food. My friend, on the other hand, absolutely loves it! She decided to try the BBQ chicken on a skewer. Apparently it was delicious!
We ended up going to bed at a decent hour in order to wake up in time for our tour the next day. Our hostel is known for its amazing tour of the Terracotta Warriors. We paid about RMB220 for the tour that went from 9:30AM-5PM and included ticket fees, transportation, and an English-speaking guide. It was definitely worth every kuai! Below is our brief walk to the site.
The site of the warriors has three different pits, so our tour guide took us through pit 2, then 3 and finally 1. She wanted to save the best for last. Below is a photo of our tour guide with a brief introduction about pit 2.
I wasn't sure what to expect from each pit, but I will say that I was surprised to see how massive the area was!
Pit 2 is considered to be the best of the three pits because there are a ton of warriors positioned in complex formations. All of the warriors, except for one, were discovered in pieces. They had to be reconstructed one by one..
Our tour guide told us an interesting story about the discovery of Pit 2 and the warriors. She said that "back in the day" each member of the army had a different rank, and you could decipher the ranks by the dress and style of the warrior. For instance, if the toes of a general's shoes were pointed upwards, they were considered to be in a very high rank. Also, if a general had a beer belly and a mustache he was thought to be very handsome. It was an interesting system.
Anyways, the kneeling archer, regardless of his rank in the army, was considered to be magical. The thought still stands true until this day because the kneeling archer was not only the first warrior to be discovered, but he was also the only one to be fully intact. He did not need to be pieced back together. The archer also still has some coloring visible in his armor. The rest of the warriors have lost all of their color. Below you can see a picture of the kneeling archer.
The second pit also had some generals in cases. It was pretty cool to see the warriors up close - there is so much detail!
Finally, the kneeling archer!
Next stop on the tour was a visit to pit number three. Pit 3 is unique in that it contained all of the major generals from the army. It was basically the "think tank", and was the most important part of the Terracotta Warriors. The pit is also different in that it is a lot smaller than the other two pits, and it was shaped in a "U"- shape.
The emperor died while this pit was being constructed, so many of the heads of the warriors are missing because they were never finished. The death of the emperor caused the entire process to stop.
Our last stop on the tour was to the most popular and famous pit of the three: Pit 1. We walked in from the back of the first pit, so at the beginning we were looking at the entire army backwards; however, the place was still massive!
Trying to lick the dirt...
There was some excavating still going on too!
Finally we were able to get a glance at the famous rows of warriors. It was insane how many there were, and every single face was different! Apparently the faces on the warriors are the faces of the slaves who created them.
Another interesting fact about the Terracotta Warriors that I learned was that the slaves who built them knew that they were going to die at the end of the project. They were all ordered to be executed and there was nothing they could do about it. Hundreds of thousands of bones were found near the site of the warriors. Before many of them died, however, they signed their names on each warrior so that they would never be forgotten.
Some close-ups of the warriors..
After about 30 minutes of walking around the first pit, our tour group went to one of the shops to look around. It just so happened that the day we took the tour the farmer who originally found the warriors was there signing books! Story has it that he was digging for some water when he ended up finding the kneeling archer. We weren't supposed to take pictures, but I couldn't help sneak one!
Our last stop on the tour was to take a quick look at the emperor's tomb. The big hill is a manmade one that is covered in fake foliage. No one is allowed to go near it, and I'm pretty sure no one has been in it. During the emperor's time, it was a popular belief that taking mercury would extend one's life, so when the emperor died it was said that he was buried with a ton of mercury in his tomb. Nobody has been in the tomb, but current technology has traced very high levels of mercury in the tomb. It was very interesting, yet sort of uneventful just looking at the tomb from afar.
After the tour, our guide took us to get an authentic Chinese lunch. We were definitely starved by that point!
Xian was a really amazing city, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go there. All of the facts I posted above about the warriors are from my tour guide - I'll be honest, I didn't look up anything else just yet. Seeing the Terracotta Warriors was really interesting though. They are considered to be the 8th wonder of the world! If anyone gets the chance to come to China, I definitely recommend seeing the warriors!
Now that I am completely done with finals, I will be posting a bunch of posts about Shanghai. It's about time that I bring back some Shanghai to this blog!