The past three days in Xi’an have flown past, but in this short time I’ve found that I prefer Xi’an considerably over Beijing. People here have been more relaxed and the greater evidence of old China in the architecture and various historical structures we’ve seen has fulfilled my previous expectations of what China would be like. Today’s visit consisted of a trip to see the Terra-Cotta soldiers and the opportunity to bike along the city wall, two great activities to conclude our visit to this city.
Once again, our tour guide Cindy informed us about the Terra-Cotta soldiers in length before arriving. The Terra-Cotta soldiers were commissioned by the first emperor of the Qin dynasty to act as guards for his immense tomb. Emperor Qin Shi Huang was known for his own self-interest which led him to use approximately 70% of the government income brought in by taxes on the construction of both his tomb and the Great Wall, leaving only 30% of government income for the people’s benefit. In addition to the Terra-Cotta soldiers, in his tomb, the emperor buried 3,000 concubines and 720,000 workers alive to protect the secret of his tomb so that no one could steal his treasures after he died. Thus, the Terra-Cotta soldiers are a prime example of the power of the emperor and, with their post-mortem destruction by those who disliked the emperor, the popular dissatisfaction with self-interested leaders.
Seeing the Terra-Cotta warriors was different than I thought it would be. Because of the destruction that occurred after the Qin dynasty was overthrown, many of the statues are still in pieces and there are 500 years’ worth of puzzle work left to complete the reconstruction of the soldiers. Overall I did enjoy seeing the Terra-Cotta warriors but today there was a problem with an excessive number of locals taking pictures of us which left me feeling similar to a zoo animal.
The last part of our day was an eight-mile bike ride along the city wall. The city wall in Xi’an was designed for protection against Mongols, but an absence of cement when the wall was built meant that builders had to resort to sticky rice and fruit juice to hold the bricks together. However, looking at the wall, you would never expect it to have been built from sticky rice as the bricks are very sturdily held together. We got to see really good views of the city while biking and successfully completed the loop around the city in an hour and a half even with pauses to take pictures and appreciate the view.
It’s a shame we have to leave Xi’an so soon as it has been my favorite city so far but I’ve really enjoyed my time here and have appreciated the local food like noodles and dumplings as well as the local historical sites.