After another buffet breakfast we were loaded onto our bus to head for the ancient town wall. During the Ming Dynasty which was 600 years ago a huge wall was built around the town of Xian. It was rectangular in shape and thick enough that you could put in a two-lane highway with full shoulders along the top of the wall. It certainly rivals any European city walls that I have seen. The old city with its older architecture is inside the walls and luckily the architecture has been mostly preserved. There is even a moat around the entire wall. Definitely a well-fortified city.
Xian was the end (or the start?) of the Silk Road which hit its height during the Tang Dynasty – 1400 years ago (though it actually began during the Han dynasty from 207 BCE to 220 CE). That era is known for its cross cultural influences and cosmopolitan lifestyle – due to the thriving trade brought on by the Silk Road.
We traveled to a government run (or maybe just endorsed) factory for terracotta warrior reproductions. We were shown how they create a mold and use the local clay to create the various warriors. We were also given a lesson on how to distinguish between the various types of warriors – archers, infantry, captains and generals. And then we were let loose to spend our money on the reproductions or some silk or some lacquer furniture or whatever else took our fancy before serving us lunch.
This area is known for its noodles and dumplings so at lunch I made sure to get a bowl of their noodle soup. It was fantastic!
From here the bus took us to the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors. I was blown away! They are absolutely amazing. Rows and rows of these life-size clay soldiers. And to think they were only discovered by a farmer digging a trench in 1974. There are more than 8000 of them. There is on-going excavation and restoration. So far they have only restored 1000 or so. It is a very long and technical task.
The warriors were created to protect the first emperor of China after he died and were buried with him during the third century BCE. The terracotta figures include more than 500 horses as well as more than 100 chariots. The detail and accurate proportions of the figures is amazing – especially considering the craftsmanship that was required to create such works of art over 2000 years ago.