Recently, I had the joy of visiting Xian: home of the renowned Terracotta Warriors. This city captivated me with its centuries of history and unique cityscape. Upon visiting, I realized that while the Warriors are the primary draw which brings tourists to the city, Xian in of itself has a lot to offer in terms of Chinese cultures for foreigners and Chinese nationals alike.To arrive in Xian, I decided to take the overnight bullet train and opted for the “soft sleeper” seat when choosing my train ticket ( I saved myself of cost of an airplane ticket and the cost of a night in a hostel). The bullet trains of China are built for speed and comfort, and I have found them to be much more affordable than their Western counterparts (flying is also a convenient option for those looking for a quicker arrival time).
Nine train hours later, I awoke 875 kilometers Northwest of Suzhou in none other than Xian. I found my hostel and was amazed to find it was located beside the South Wall of Xian City. It is one of the best hostels I have stayed in within China. I was impressed by the service, the price (~$2 USD per night), and the atmosphere itself. Food, drinks, tours and everything a traveler could possibly need is available at this hostel. The staff was friendly and always available to help.
Immediately, upon arrival, I knew that I wanted to see the Terracotta Soldiers. As I know enough Chinese to get around, I simply asked the hostel receptionist for the bus route and was on my way. I took a bus from Nanmen Station and arrived at the Xian Railway Station 20 minutes later. The bus was 1RMB! At this point, I took another bus from the train station to the Warriors. Within 40 minutes, I had reached my destination… all for less than $2 USD! I was the only foreigner on the bus - my travel experience is proof that learning Mandarin will SAVE you in the long-run in terms of getting around and saving money. It’s a worthwhile investment.
After arriving at the historic site, it was relatively simple to find the main gate and ticketing. One simply follows the droves of tour groups who flock to this site. Upon entering the front gate of this UNESCO site, one walks along nature trails to arrive at another entrance point. The trees along the trails were in full bloom and the fragrance blossoms permeated the air and made the pollution of the day that much more bearable. (As an aside, Xian is known to have problems with air pollution. Wear a mask on the bad days and check the air quality for the time of your stay. Better safe than sick!) Roughly 500 meters later, one arrives at the second entrance gate to the historic site.
At the Terracotta Warriors historic site, there are 3 individual sites to visit:
→ One site represents a military formation of the Qing Dynasty and appears to be a bit more abstract than the warriors themselves.
→ The second site is the horses and a museum with countless exhibits explaining the process of unearthing the monument as well as the history behind the warriors themselves.
→ The third, and most popular site, is the warriors themselves.
I was completely taken aback by the warriors. There was so much detail engraved in each statue. There was a sense of resilience and a reverence for the workmanship which has withstood the test of time. It was an honor to visit such a significant historical site and to delve a bit more into China’s immense history.
Upon returning to the Xian city center, I decided to explore a local street food alley. There were so many tantalizing foods to choose from. I walked around the city and got a feel for local life. I was impressed at how well Xian has preserved its historical monuments. The architecture of the city brings one back to a different time. I was impressed by the fact that the old city walls of Xian remain intact. A local friend took me to some of the well-known city sites.
My time in Xian was short, but during my time there, I grew to love this city. It plays a significant part in Chinese history and still surrounded by its old city walls. Many cities in the world do not have a full city wall or have not been able to maintain structures that existed in ancient times. I was impressed by architecture of the old city. It was great to meander along the cobblestone streets and to sample street foods. One of my favorite memories was wandering along a small river on the south side of the old city and seeing people go about their daily lives and listen. When I have the opportunity, I definitely will return to Xian. I feel that there is much to Xian than just the Terracotta Soldiers. There is a history waiting to be explored within those ancient city walls. There is a legacy that lives on in the heart of Chinese nationals and foreigners alike.
A Northeastern girl from Camden, Maine, Amanda never imagined her passion for languages and diplomacy would coalesce in a global journey of discovery. This ITA Alumni Ambassador is now embarking on her fourth year teaching ESL
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