We started our last day in Xi’an with a bus ride to the site of the Terracotta Warriors, which is just outside the city. The larger-than-life figures were originally constructed around 200 B.C., for the purpose of being entombed with the Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The emperor’s tomb was a massive undertaking that would have taken years to build, and employed an army of laborers and artisans. In addition to the clay figures, there were also many people who were buried alive with the emperor when he died. Any of his concubines who did not have a child to care for would have been sacrificed, in addition to the workers who had worked on the tomb in order to keep the exact location a secret. Sounds like the kind of thing they forgot to mention in the job description!
The scale of the warriors themselves is staggering; the main pit that’s been excavated was contained in a building the size of an aircraft hangar, and represents only a fraction of the total. The majority of the figures haven’t been excavated or assembled yet. During the collapse of the Qin dynasty, people broke into the tomb and smashed all the terracotta warriors to show their displeasure. That means that each figure today had to be painstakingly reassembled piece by piece by archaeologists—essentially the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle. At the current rate, they expect it will take at least another 500 years to assemble the entire army.
That afternoon, we went for a bike ride along the old city wall, which is still intact after thousands of years. It offered nice views of Xi’an, and was a good way to relax after a few busy days of visiting historical sites. In the evening some friends and I had a nice dinner in the Muslim streets before going off to explore the city one last time. Looking back on my time in Xi’an, it definitely seemed to move at a different pace from Beijing; the city was older, felt more traditional, and offered a glimpse into what much of china must have been like for hundreds of years. I was glad to have visited, as it showed me a part of China that is harder to find in bigger cities.