My time management ‘skills’ are evidently in rapid decline. Now where were we…
A whistle-stop tour of China would not be complete without a visit to the Terracotta Army. Xian is the nearest city to this famous site: a little under two hours by ‘plane or an overnight train journey away from Beijing.
As we were simply dashing in and out, we booked a two-night package to cover everything except the flights in and out of Xian. For the uninitiated westerner I would recommend the tour company we used. Not only was our guide a wealth of information but she helped us avoid some potential tourist-trap pitfalls and was very good company all round.
Xian itself is pleasant place which being the fabled start of The Silk Road in olden times has plenty of history to boast. Centuries ago it was a walled city and the walls remain one hundred percent intact. Eighteen metres wide at the base and little narrower on top, they provide a fourteen kilometre route to walk or cycle round and enjoy the constant mixture of old and new sights. The walls of York seem a bit small in comparison.
The Terracotta Army is around an hour’s drive away from the city centre. Even after hearing so much about it since childhood it was worth the visit.
With the army numbering several thousand warriors all smashed to shards and each individual soldier taking a year or more to re-assemble, it is difficult to say how much work remains for the archaeologists to do (and I did ask). The plan at the moment is not to attempt total reconstruction which is probably just as well. There is enough on show at present to give a very good understanding of scale of the site and huge amount of labour that went into creating it.
Some terracotta warriors prior to reassembly
Touring the excavations and the exhibitions would make a pleasant stroll for a couple of hours in spring or autumn but was hot work in high summer. In all seasons one must save enough energy for the long walk home. Golf carts cover the kilometre or so from the car park to the site when you arrive but all visitors are obliged to walk back to their vehicles along a street of wall to wall souvenir shops and concession stores that is being developed. The brazen commercialism contrasts disappointingly with the very non-commercial feel of the main site. Such is the way of ‘progress’?