China 15: Xian and Terracotta Warriors

Friday, 25th April, 2014

No mention of Anzac Day here but we certainly had a full day. A bus picked us up after breakfast to take us to the Terracotta Warriors. Would you believe it was 8 degrees here and raining while Beijing is basking in 25 degrees? Anyway we were wearing our warmest clothes and not too worried because we knew the warriors were under cover. What we didn’t know is that there are three pits to visit plus the museum so there was a fair bit of outdoor walking to do. The first pit was the largest and we were keen to get a good view of the infantrymen in their rows. So were hundreds of others so it was the quick and the dead to get a space beside the railing. It was interesting to see the site of the well where three men were digging when they found the first warrior. The first warrior was still in a broken condition because it was decided to leave him that way. Even more exciting was the existence of the very man who found the first pottery fragments in March 1974. He was there, signing books so I had to buy one. The army is 2,200 years old and is 1.5 kilometres from Emperor Qin’s mausoleum. He was worried about dying and was searching for the secret to immortality. Just in case he prepared on a massive scale for the afterlife and all his concubines, wives and workmen went with him when he died at the age of 49. It is thought he was taking Mercury to prolong life but alas it had the opposite effect.

One of our party of 16 did not make it to the rendezvous point so Xing Xing took us to pit 3 and went back to look for her. Pit 3 is the smallest pit, known as the command centre and was discovered in 1976. We then moved on to pit 2 where there were some close up views of various soldiers and officers. By this time Xing Xing had found the lost group member and we headed across to the museum. Again this was very interesting. I especially liked the bronze chariots pulled by four horses, the second of which looked like a 2000 year old caravan.

Xing Xing offered us lunch at Subway or a warm meal in a farmhouse. 8 opted for the former especially when they were told they could eat it in the farmhouse. John and I opted for the hot meal which was home cooked style and very tasty and fresh. Mr Yung lived on a farm which became part of the Warriors Museum Complex so his old house was knocked down and he was was given a new one. Fortunately it wasn’t in an apartment block. He now finds cooking meals more lucrative than farming. It cost us $8 a head.

We had a rest in our room after the hour long trip back to Xian. Our hotel has seen better days but the rooms are big, beds comfy and showers hot. We had a minor problem of no cold water for an hour this morning but otherwise it’s fine. Almost every hotel has had free internet, unlike Sydney.

At 5.15 we met for a walk to the bell tower, the drum tower and the Muslim Quarter. The last of these was fascinating with a huge variety of food bring cooked on the footpaths outside the shops. We tried a date filled persimmon cake. Delicious!

Next we hopped on a local bus to take us two stops to the Shaanxi Grand Opera House. Because we had had quite a big lunch John and I opted to share the 16 courses of dumplings on offer before the show. They were delicious and accompanied by rice wine, beer and tea. The only problem was Ian in our group caught his finger on a chair and sliced the top off it. His wife had her first aid kit but he was in pain and will have to watch out for infection. You just don’t need that to happen on a holiday.

Xing Xing had only been able to get us C grade seats but they were fine. The show was entertaining although obviously geared to the Western Tourist market. There was a mixture of orchestra and dancing supposedly from the Tang Dynasty but there were a few modern instruments thrown in, probably for the better as many of the Chinese instruments are strident and hard on the ears. The percussion was great but the dance of the masked warriors designed to expel epidemics and ghosts was my favourite.

Two bus stops and we were home. We’ll need a good sleep tonight as tomorrow night we will be
spending 12 hours in a sleeper train with two other (as yet unknown) people on the way to Beijing.

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