Holiday – China (Day 9): Sightseeing in Xian

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Morning all! Another day, another Temple! Pagoda Mad Chinese motorist sight-seeing opportunity! 😁
Here we are in Xian (or more correctly, Xi’an) cultural capital of China.

Xi’an has a population of 9 million (and most of those seem to be on the road (or IN the road, trying to cross) at any one moment in time! 😮

(Thanks to Mrs P for guest-editing yesterday’s adventure. 💑❤ – a great job!)

To give you a sense of scale, it takes 10-12 hours to get from PIngyao to Xi’an using a traditional train

Today is probably the highlight of the holiday – a visit to the iconic Terracotta Army. Actually, there is so much to see in this part of China, we’re going to have to prioritise our day! So, here’s our plan…

  • The Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  • The Terracotta Warriors
  • The Muslim Quarter
  • The Great Mosque
  • The Drum and Bell Towers
Just to make us feel at home!

But it looks like the weather is against us (and as things turned out, it was pretty accurate!)

But before all this cultural enrichment, breakfast calls – and this morning it called me loudly! After a hearty stuffing, I, at least, was ready for anything – even Chinese motorists!

A moment of illumination – and a quick mention of the impressive (and equally massive) chandelier in Reception. The Trotters would have loved the cleaning contract as it was about the size of Corby!

Suitably illuminated, we met Nina, our Guide, and Mr Su, our Driver, for our 8.30 sightseeing tour.

Yesterday’s sluggish journey from the railway station was a tad frustrating, so it was good to be on the road as early as we were. Not that it made much difference though! – the usual jockeying for every inch of road-space and some traffic congestion along the way made it all feel very ‘normal’ for this part of the world. And just when I thought I’d got a measure of the driving talents out here, Mr Su confused us all by stopping at a zebra-crossing to let someone across the road! (He did it three more times today!) I wonder if he’s really Chinese 🤔

I reckon that the only thing that has a longer life than than Chinese deities is a Chinese motorist’s indicator bulbs! The country might boast having some of the fastest trains in the world, but getting from A to B in the big cities by car is a nerve-shredding experience! 🤔

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Our first stop on our itinerary was The Big Wild Goose Pagoda (not to be confused with The Small Wild Goose Pagoda) and is so named because…

nope, no idea! 😊

This unusual (for pagaodas!) structure is a Buddhist temple located in southern Xi’an, Shaanxi. It was built in 652 during the Tang dynasty and originally had five stories. The structure was rebuilt in 704 during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian and its exterior brick facade was renovated during the Ming dynasty.

Things didn’t start well, with Mr Su, our driver parking in the underground car-park nearby, only for us all to discover that most of the pedestrian exits from the car-park were still locked (it was just before 9am) and the one that was led to a shopping centre that wasn’t open. Eventually, he drove out of the car-park, did a lap of honour, and dropped us all off nearby, before disappearing (it’s very strict in China if you park illegally).

If the Pagoda looks like it’s wonky, you’re right, as it leans a few degrees to the west. It was pretty busy when we got near, but it was only a brief photo-opportunity and we were in and out within 20 minutes. Our next stop would be the main event…

The Terracotta Army

We’re so looking forward to this! The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife. The figures, dating from approximately the late third century BCE were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong County,

But bizarrely, before all that, we were taken to a shop where they make the warriors. Ehh? We were introduced to John who gave us a thorough explanation of the construction process. But hang on a minute! These turned out to be miniatures!

It took a few minutes for the penny to drop, but we soon realised we were in the Terracotta Warrior Gift Shop (not actually near the Warrior Museum itself) where there was every size of warrior in every colour! OK, it was either all a bit tacky, or wonderfully varied – I know what I thought!

Just when we thought we’d seen everything, we were ushered upstairs where the building now morphed into a furniture store. There was a wide range of Chinese cabinets, tables, chairs and storage boxes – and they were all beautiful (but a bit irrelevant for us) all we really wanted to see the Terracotta Army! As we looked around, we realised there were gazillions of staff standing-by to (ahem) assist us in our next purchasing decision. It all felt a bit weird and we were impatient not to be moving on.

But not before an early lunch! Now it was all falling into place! Bring the customers here, entice them with some authentic bits and pieces, feed them and then deposit them at the Terracotta Warriors! It’s obviously a well-trodden routine (that didn’t particularly suit our timetable).

Actually, the food was very good – and there was plenty of it too! 😁

Next stop WAS the Terracotta Warrior displays – and thank goodness they were INSIDE because it was now p****** it down (and some!)

This is clearly THE tourist attraction in China and no expense has been spared on making the ticket area and the entrance route big enough to cope with hords of invading Mongols tourists. Just a pity, the weather was so bad, as there is quite a walk once you’re through the gate to the actual displays. By the time Nina got us to Pit 1, we were soaked! ☔☔☔☔☔☔☔☔☔☔☔☔

For the numbers fans out there, here we go…

  • 3 Pits (display areas)
  • 8,000 soldiers
  • 130 chariots
  • 520 horses
Beyond impressive! (Click on the pic for a larger version)

I don’t think anything could have fully prepared us for the scale of this. We’d all seen photographs before we came, but to actually get in front of Pit 1 (the first display) was simply jaw-dropping. If you take a look at the photo above, just look at the size of us humans walking around the edge!

It’s not particularly well-lit (I guess that’s deliberate) but it doesn’t disappoint on any level. Hard to believe that a local peasant, digging for a well, led to this amazing discovery that just keeps on giving. And the best bit? There’s plenty of visible evidence of ongoing discovery and subsequent restoration.

We must have spent around an hour-and-a-half there and although it was very busy, we were able to get as close as possible to the exhibits. A few selected areas are out-of-bounds for photography, but mostly, it’s all easily accessible. This is a MUST-SEE if you’re in China! I think it’s fair to say that our expectations were exceeded! 👍👍👍👍

As we left the final pit, the weather was now even worse. With our umbrellas working overtime, we followed Nina on an interesting twenty-minute walking route (featuring some tacky local stalls) back to Mr Su and his very welcome transport. One thing they don’t seem to have got right here is drainage – puddles the size of small lakes. As the weather deteriorated further, Ann, Karen and I decided that we should abandon what was left of the tour, whilst Ralph ‘soldiered-on’ and undertook a solo mission into the Muslim Quarter/The Great Mosque/Drum and Bell Towers.

We all met up a little later and agreed it had been an unforgettable day!

Well, that’s it for this time here in Xi’an. We’ve seen a lot here and it was only the poor weather that got in the way. If/when we visit again, we’d stay longer! 🙂

We’re checking out tomorrow, heading for Guilin on a two-hour flight.

More photos (and none of my chat!) HERE

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