Day 8: Soldiers and No Sailors

Aside from the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warrior Army was the cultural site I was most excited about. The Terracotta Army is a giant collection of life-size terracotta sculptures in battle formation. They were built to represent the imperial guard troops of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi ordered the Terracotta Army to be built in order to protect him in his afterlife. We visited three pits, with my favorite being Pit 1. At Pit 1, there are over 6,000 terracotta warriors and horses that are arranged in a battle formation. I was blown away by the sight of the entire army. You could tell that each warrior wasn’t just a replica of another. The faces, the heights, and even the hairstyles of each warrior are slightly different. Pit 3 is the smallest of the three pits, but I believe it is the command center of the other two pits. Many of the warriors did not have heads, and there were four horses lined up together at the center.

Next, we visited Pit 2, which although isn’t as impressive as Pit 1, houses all types of terracotta warriors. Only a small fraction of this pit was excavated. Even though most of the pit is unearthed, they know that there are infantries, cavalries, chariot warriors, and arches within using scanning technology. Finally, we took a look at the bronze chariots and horses, or as our guide, Rocky, named it, The Emperor’s BMW. I still wonder how much time it must’ve taken ancient Chinese artisans to craft all these warriors. Accounting for the size and detail, the Terracotta Army is truly a marvel. At the gift shop, I bought egg tarts, which were later eaten at our buffet-style lunch. I tried out Xi’an’s famous Biang Biang Mien for the first time. Handmade in front of us, Biang Biang Mien is essentially just a long, flat, and wide strip of noodle. It was very good with the tomato and egg sauce.

After leaving the Terracotta Army, we headed straight to the city wall of Xi’an. It is the most complete city wall that has survived in China and is one of the biggest ancient military defensive systems in the world. Where ancient Chinese soldiers walked on to protect the city, we biked around the perimeter for 14 kilometers, which is roughly 9 miles, around the top of the city wall. On both sides of the wall, you could get a very good aerial view of Xi’an. I’m very glad to have biked on top of the wall, but it was very bumpy due to the uneven brick paving. I was able to see much of Xi’an, such as this golden-roofed temple which was beautifully built. I also noticed that there were at least 5 couples who were taking wedding pictures on the city wall. There was also a section where people could put up their wishes on pieces of paper and hang it up on the arch above.

After a much-needed shower, I went with a group to get local baked goods. We bought egg tarts as well as this delicious light and fluffy sponge cake. After our eating our snacks, we went with Dr. Li to the Muslim Quarter. Dr. Li brought us to a famous restaurant that serves lamb potato noodle soup with soaked pita bread. One legend about this dish’s origin is that when the founding emperor of the Song Dynasty only had two pieces of inedible hard bread on his journey back to his hometown, his party went to a shop selling lamb soup and broke the bread in pieces and added it to the soup. They serve each bowl individual to assure high quality, but also because there is only one chef. The noodle soup was very delicious, especially after adding cloves of garlic. After dinner, we explored the market even more. Using my limited conversational Mandarin, I was able to help barter for some friends without Jane around. After visiting the army, biking on the city wall, and exploring more of the Muslim Quarter, I slept quite soundly after returning to the hotel.

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