Xi'an Things to Do Tips by mikelisaanna
Xi'an Things to Do: 555 reviews and 1,249 photos
The farmer who found the Terra Cotta Warriors
Yang Pei Yan, the farmer who originally found the Terra Cotta Warriors in 1974 while drilling a well, is still alive and lives in the area. He is often sitting in the gift shop, where he makes money by autographing books about the warriors that people buy in the shop. Yes, it is a bit of a gimmick to extract money from tourists. However, the man did make one of the greatest archaeological finds in history and didn't loot it, so we don't mind seeing him make some extra yuan.
Directions: In the main giftshop near the pits containing the warrior statues.
The Tang Dynasty show is a theatrical show performed in a large dinner theater that features music and dances with a historical Tang Dynasty theme (the Tang Dynasty was the height of Xi'an's power and wealth). The costumes are beautiful and the dances well performed. Although it is clearly targeted at tourists (the audience was 80% non-Chinese), it was still fun to see, especially for our daughter Anna.
Before the show starts, they serve you a three course meal that features a variety of dumplings (about 15 types), as well as soup and drinks. The food was filling, and the Tsingtao beer was cold, which made Mike happy.
Address: 75 Chang An Road, Xi'an
Directions: The easiest way to get there is by cab. It was about a 15 minute cab ride from central Xi'an (about $2US each way).
Qin Shi Huangdi's pyramid tomb from a distance
About 1/2 km from the Terra Cotta Army lies the actual tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the empeor who unified China. The tomb, which has not yet been excavated lies within an earthen pyramid, each side of which is about 500 meters long at the base. The height of the pyramid was originally about 100 meters, but is smaller now due to erosion. The pyramid now looks from a distance like a large hill covered with trees.
Inside the pyramid is reputed to be a lavish replica of the emperor's palace and a map of China, whose rivers are represented with streams of mercury. In addition to the emperor, his childless concubines and numerous workers are also said to be entombed in the pyramid.
The Terra Cotta Army
The Terra Cotta Warriors, an army of life-sized soldier sculptures located outside of Xi'an, are one of the wonders of the ancient world. The army guards the tomb of emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, who unified China in 221 BC and ordered the building of the first version of the Great Wall of China. The emperor's tomb complex covers several square miles, and required a workforce of 700,000 workers at its peak. In addition to the Terra Cotta Warriors, the tomb complex includes a large earthen pyramid, which has not yet been excavated, but is believed to contain the emperor's tomb.
The Terra Cotta Army consists of over 6000 life-sized sculptures of soldiers, and includes infantrymen, archers, cavalrymen, horses, and generals. It was buried in 3 large pits and one smaller one, which were covered with a roof made of logs and earth. Over the centuries, the army was forgotten, until a farmer drilling a well accidentally discovered it in the 1970s.
The warriors were originally painted with bright colors, but exposure to the atmosphere caused the paint to deteriorate, leaving them earthen-colored today. Not all of the army has yet been excavated. Because of earthquakes and settling of the ground over the centuries, most of the warriors were broken into pieces over time. The archaelogists who have been excavating the site have been slowly unearthing the army and assembling the broken pieces, with the result on display for tourists. All three pits have been enclosed by large buildings to protect the warriors, and are open to tourists, who view the pits from elevated walkways around each pits perimeter. Pit 1, the first one discovered, has the largest number of warriors on display. Pit 2 is largely unexcavated, while Pit 3, the smallest of the three, has been excavated and contains the army's commanders.
In addition to the pits, there is a small museum which features a fascinating model of the emperor's tomb complex, as well as two chariots that were unearthed from the site.
Directions: The Terra Cotta Army is located about 45 minutes outside of Xi'an, in China's Shaanxi province.
The Large Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an
The Large Wild Goose Pagoda is a well-preserved pagoda from the Tang Dynasty that is over 200 feet tall. The pagoda was originally built as a five-story pagoda in the 7th century, with additional height and stories added in the 9th century. The top few stories of the pagoda fell of in a 16th century earthquake, leaving it at its current size. As a result of soil settling, the pagoda leans slightly to one side, which you can see from a distance.
The pagoda is part of a temple complex, the Da Ci'en Temple. You can climb to the top of the pagoda for a good view of Xi'an. Some of the other buildings in the temple complex are open to tourists. One included beautiful jade murals of Buddhist imagery, while another featured a large Buddha sculpture.
Directions: The Large Wild Goose Pagoda is located about 1-2 miles south of the Xi'an city wall
The Xi'an city wall
Xian has the best intact city wall of any city in China. It is over 10 meters high and surrounds the old part of the city, with a total length of approximately 14 kilometers. The wall is open to visitors, with steps providing access from a handful of points around the city. We accessed the wall from the South Gate, which has a well-preserved guard tower with good views of the city from its top floor (you have to pass through a few souvenir shops to get to the view).
Not only is the Xi'an city wall intact, but so are its guard towers, which rise from the top of the wall every 1/2 km or so. The moat outside the wall is also intact. At night, the wall is lit up very attractively, with lights along its top edge.
Directions: The wall surrounds the old central section of Xi'an. A good place to access it is from the South Gate.
The Shaanxi History Museum
The Shaanxi History Museum is one of the two must-see sights in Xi'an (the other being the Terra Cotta Warriors). It is a modern museum that was built to house relics from the area's history, focusing on the area's prehistory and the the various dynasties up through the Tang Dynasty, when Xi'an, then called Changan, was the capital of China and one of the world's largest and most powerful cities. The exhibits features pottery, bronze pieces, coins, and sculptures from the varios periods arranged in dynastic order. Additional information about each of the time periods is provided by short films as you enter each area.
One thing that you must know before visiting the museum is that they limit the number of visitors each day, so people line up before it opens to get a ticket. We got there at 10AM and the line was down the block. Fortunately for us, there was a separate and much shorter line for senior citizens, disabled persons and families with children, so Anna (our 7-year old) saved the day (and about 2 hours). One other quirk about the museum's ticket system is that foreigners must show their passports to get a ticket (1 ticket per passport). We heard that they sometimes make exceptions to the ticket limit for tourists that can show an airline ticket proving that they are flying out that day and won't get another chance to see the museum, but we can't verify it.
Address: 91 Xiaozhai Donglu
Directions: About 2 miles south of the city wall
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