An astounding archeological discovery, the terracotta army outside of Xi’an is another one of China’s most popular tourist destinations, and one that we didn’t want to miss while we were in the country. On our second day in Xi’an, we hopped on a bus and headed out to the site to spend a day with the warriors of clay.
There’s plenty of information out there about the army so I won’t write much here, not being an expert on the subject. I found this clip on YouTube; it’s not amazing but it will give you a pretty good overview if you want some background info:
I was really excited to see the army and I think I probably didn’t manage my expectations properly (like I was able to do for the Great Wall), because it wasn’t the best day for me.
Seeing the army for yourself IS amazing – the implications and sheer size, the craftsmanship, the glimpse into another era of life in a culture long gone – it can’t help but be impressive. But I was in the wrong headspace and had a tough time to not get distracted and annoyed by the tourism side of it.
We happened to be there when a lot of Chinese tour groups were also visiting. Despite being mindful of my surroundings and trying to stay out of the way, I found myself being constantly bumped into by people who weren’t looking where they were going.
There was a lot of this sort of thing at displays so viewing everything we wanted to took a lot of time and patience; it was tough (for me at least) to just get immersed in the history and experience.
We decided to not get a tour guide because we wanted to view things at our own pace and in our own way. We picked up an audio guide instead. The museum signage is not the clearest and we found the audio guide provided a lot of detailed facts about specific things we looked at – this is the sort of paint used on this piece or this is how high this item is – but not a lot of context and no story, which is what we had been hoping for. I’m not sure if a human guide would have been better, but I can safely advise skipping the audio guide if you are considering it.
Get over it!
I am confident though, that with the right attitude and a bit more background information, visiting the terracotta army can be a mind-blowing experience. Even though I was annoyed for a lot of the time we were there, I’m still 100% glad that we went, and, removing my own limiting emotions from the memories of it, I have to say that it is pretty darn amazing.
From the traditional beliefs about the afterlife, to the amount of work that went into constructing an army of that size, to how darn old it is, to the fact that it was discovered at all, the whole thing is fascinating and just about miraculous. What I loved the most though was taking in the unique faces of each statue. The details of each individual figure and the specific expressions on their faces were enthralling.
So, without further ado, here are the terracotta warriors. 🙂