For most people a trip to Xian is all about visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors, which is of course a must see, and the first thing I did when visiting Xian for the first time in 2014. There is so much to see and do in Xian. You could visit many times and still find new things to explore so it’s no wonder so many tourists flock to the city. As for me, I have used Xian as the beginning to both of my Silk Road journeys, and each time I have found new things to see and do. Even after two separate visits, there is still a lot I haven’t seen.
I can remember hearing about the unearthing of the Terra Cotta Warriors as a child. I wondered then how it was possible that there were still things to be found and explored, aside from the depths of the ocean. When the National Geographic arrived at our house with photos of the warriors I was surprised at how real each statue looked, and what great condition they were in. Unlike other memories of travel desires as a child, I’m not sure if the images stirred desires to travel to China.
Fast-forward to a year or so before I left for this Asian adventure. Our good friend told us that the San Francisco Asian Art Museum was going to have a new Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit. I was so excited to see them in real life, and when I saw them for the first time I was in complete awe. Not only were the figures amazing to see up close, especially when seeing how big they are, I was also completely fascinated by the story of the Qin Shi Huang, the first Qin Emperor, and his quest for the most glamorous afterlife. The after-life doesn’t get more grandiose than Qin Shi Huang’s.
As our train neared Xian after two nights I couldn’t wait to stretch my legs. Little did I know it would be a real workout just trying to find our hostel. But after two days on the train, some exercise was very welcome. What wasn’t welcome was Xian’s famous heat. It was before 10 am, and I was already sweating. When we reached the hostel, I was so gross from being on the train, and the hour or so adventure finding our hostel, I needed to shower before heading off.
Getting to the warriors is incredibly easy. All you have to do is make your way to the main Xian train station, just outside the old city wall. Once there, head to the eastern side of the ticket office and you will find a parking lot filled with buses. Most of these buses will take you to the entrance to the warriors, and someone will surely find you and lead you to a bus. There is a small price difference between the different buses, and some will take you directly there while others are local buses that will make many stops along the way.
We jumped on a bus and before too long we started moving. I realized after about 20 minutes that we had taken a local bus and were making a lot of stops along the way. I didn’t mind though as it was nice to be on an air-conditioned ride, as well as watching the city go by. We finally stopped in a large parking lot where everyone was getting off the bus so we figured we were there. Off we went following the other people who got off the bus, first through a bunch of vendors and then into a maze of shops and restaurant.
There were no signs, and no direction on where to go. We were a bit tired, hot, and really confused. We finally made our way to a place where they demanded our ticket. After some gestures and some terrible Chinese on our part we were motioned back in another direction to get tickets. We made our way to another line, but that was for an electric car. So again, where are the tickets? Finally a woman asked us if we needed help, and luckily she spoke English. She helped us find the ticket counter, then informed us she was a guide. We were exhausted and she had helped us finally figure out where to buy tickets, so we thought what the heck, we’ll take a guide.
In hindsight, the guide was not worth the money, as she basically just told us the same information they have posted in English. And without a guide we wouldn’t have kept being pushed to buy some jade along the way. But hey, that’s what you get when you choose a guide or a tour in China. It just comes with the territory, so you have to learn to either say no, or just move through the multiple obligatory shopping stops.
Tickets finally in hand, guide by our side, we made our way to Pit 1, where the biggest unearthed warriors are located. As we were getting closer and closer it was becoming apparent just how many people were there, and how hot it had become. We entered the large room that was build around the pit. There were literally people everywhere, very little space to move around, extremely hot and humid, and people were pushing and shoving, with our guide telling us about the history in broken English. So naturally, I started feeling claustrophobic and looking for the exit. After our guide insisted on taking a photo of my husband and I, we made our way out of the building.
The other areas were not as bad as the first pit, but between the heat and all the people I was having trouble really enjoying the area. That isn’t to say I wasn’t in awe of all the images, because I was. Seeing how big of an area the warriors took up, and seeing the large areas where more pits have been discovered but no yet excavated is even more impressive than you can imagine beforehand. They have found so many more pits filled with more than just the warriors. Animals, acrobats, eating vessels, and so much more. Sadly, many will remain under ground until they can figure out better technology to preserve the warriors. That, and there is an abundance of mercury that was also buried underground, making it incredibly toxic to unearth certain areas. But in a way that adds to the mystery and oddity of the whole complex.
- I would suggest visiting in Spring or Fall when the temperatures aren’t so extreme. Outside of summer will also involve fewer people.
- A guide isn’t really needed to see the area. There are English signs that give you about as much information as the guide will. If you choose to hire a guide it should cost 100CNY.
- Prepare to feel a little lost when you first get there since the ticket counter isn’t well marked.
- Take bus 306 from Xian railway station. Ticket should cost 7CNY, and will take about an hour. You can also take a free shuttle bus from the Xian North high speed railway station, all you need to do is show your train ticket from that day. Last bus leaves at 7pm.
- Entrance fee is 120CNY
Have you been to see the Terra Cotta Warriors? What was your first impression?