Since the discovery of the Terracotta Warriors in 1974 close to the city of Xi’an it has been one of the main destinations for tourists all over the world and it is the main reason for people to travel to Xi’an. It’s not that the city doesn’t have other interesting sites of historical value to offer but none that can get close to the importance of the warrior and horse statues. For decades it has now been the number one place included in all Xi’an Tours. The warriors, chariots and horses had the purpose of defending the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in his afterlife. Built in the 3rd century BC the army now counts as the most significant find of the 20th century and was declared a UNESCO World cultural heritage in 1987.

 

To avoid disappointment however, it’s helpful to be prepared to what to expect. It is one of the most visited historical attractions in the world and for that reason very touristy and crowded. In general in high season the place always seems to be packed with groups and individuals. To avoid ‘rush hour’ you can try to get there either early in the morning or late in the evening during the opening hours. A convenient and cheap way to get there is by public bus number 306 for as little as 7 RMB which leaves frequently from the Xi’an Railway Station north of the center. You pay for your ticket on the bus and it takes about an hour to get to the Terracotta Army. This public bus lets the passenger off at a smaller parking lot next to the main one where all the tour coaches park. The bus back to the city leaves at the same place, so remember how to get there.

 

Once you get off the bus you have to walk a little bit to get to the ticket both where you’ll be surrounded by guides offering you a tour and lots of helpful information about the place and its history. It’s up to you to decide if you think it’s worth the money and be careful, some people can get really pushy trying to convince you of their service. After you got your tickets you need to walk up to get to the actual entrance gate. Just follow the crowd or the signs, it’s hard to miss. The way leading towards it is almost built like a small village consisting of countless souvenir shops for all the visitors offering more or less the same articles. For really original souvenirs you might want to go to less visited places where you can get better souvenirs at more reasonable prices.

 

Once you’ve made your way up and have passed the gate you’ll get to the large main area with newly constructed buildings, clean and well taken care of. There are in total four separate pits and a museum in different buildings. Pit no. 1 is the biggest and most popular one with the largest number of well preserved warriors and horses. My personal advice is nevertheless to start with the second pit. It is much smaller than the first one and has a lot less warriors and horses but the building has a lower ceiling and is darker and cooler inside with lesser visitors than the biggest pit. This adds to the magic effect those ancient statues have on visitors. Don’t leave out the first pit, though. Just be prepared to people pushing you around to get a good picture close to the entrance with the warriors in the background. And apart from that, the arched hall constructed to protect the warriors seems like a hangar and takes away the ‘glamour’ or the special atmosphere which you’ll find in the smaller pits.

If you want to eat something before getting on the bus to head back to your Xi’an Hotels there are lots of food stands and smaller restaurants where you can get anything from ice cream, fruit and snacks to full meals. It’s no secret that food is overpriced and generally not very high standard at touristy places like this one. So you could consider bringing food yourself or waiting for dinner until you get back to the city. As mentioned in the beginning, the Terracotta Army is one of the most important historical sites in China, so go ahead and plan your trip, but keep in mind that you’re not the only one who has this idea.

Jack Li

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