Four Reasons Why Xi’an Should Be On Your Bucket List
Like many kids from the 90’s, I grew up watching the Indiana Jones movies. I don’t know if it’s because my brother liked Harrison Ford from his Star Wars days, but I remember watching Indy shooting up baddies and saving the day throughout my childhood. It was the sense of adventure that made the franchise so intriguing – after all, every kid wants to be an explorer at some point.
Fast forward to when I lived in China fifteen years later for college. I hadn’t given archeologist Indiana Jones much thought from the time I was small, but his face materialized in my mind when I stepped into the pits at Xi’an. Although I lived in Beijing while studying abroad, my family came to visit me after my program ended and we toured different parts of the country. One trip was to Xi’an, China, in the middle of the country, and home to the famous terra cotta soldiers. If that in itself doesn’t excite you, here are four more reasons to visit one of the biggest archaeological sites in the world.
The terra cotta army was built as funeral art for the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. The army was made for his burial nearly 2,220 years ago as a way of protecting the Emperor during his afterlife. The army was discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974, and, get this – archaeologists are still digging up the army. At this point, 8,000 soldiers, chariot riders, horses, and more have been exhumed, but specialists are still finding more to this day!
Like the Egyptians, the Chinese would start on funeral preparations before their leader had passed away. In this instance, the Chinese began building this mausoleum to the emperor when he was quite young, and it is estimated that it took nearly 700,000 men and nearly forty years to build the site. The army was made by local artisans in an assembly line fashion, and then assembled the army at the site some time later. Each soldier has a unique face, and they were once painted bright colors and held real weaponry. If you visit the site today, the thousands of now-colorless soldiers are standing at attention with open hands for weapons, as the materials for paint and swords have disintegrated or have been looted over the past few thousand years.
According to some historians, in ancient China when a person of an elite status died, they were buried with their servants in a human sacrifice. This practice got less popular as time went on, and it is thought that the terra cotta army was used as a stand in for the servants. Each sculpture is of human height and is intricately detailed, so this theory could fit. Emperor Qin Shi Huang spent most of his reign at war, although he did an impressive job at unifying his country. He is also responsible for standardizing currency, weights and measures, and creating the first version of the Great Wall of China. Despite his enormous accomplishments, it is said that he craved immortality, and the terra cotta army have certainly made it so that we remember his name.
See It For Yourself
If you are up to seeing one of the world’s biggest tombs unearthed before you, you totally can! This week I saw a Travelzoo deal with flights, tours, and hotels included from the US to China for only $599! You can easily add on a flight to Xi’an after your tour ends with a trip that inexpensive! If you live outside the US, or can’t fork over nearly 600 bucks at the moment, the terra cotta army men are scattered throughout the world in various museums. I’d encourage you to research the nearest site and check it out for yourself!