Xian is absolutely one of the silk roads highlights! It is the capital of the Shaanxi province and one of the oldest cities in China with more than 3,100 years of history. Xian has more than 8 million inhabitants and is home of the famous Terracotta Army.
After a 122 km journey with just a few climbs in the morning, we arrived in Xian metropolitan area. Although it’s a big city, cycling through it is easy. Traffic is relaxed and the flagging is properly done. After cycling most of the day on my own, I met Candice at a busy intersection. Together we find our way, the last 10 km to the hotel, which was a bit confusing at the end. Apparently there was extra flagging for the support vehicles, which was a dead end for us… anyway, after reaching the hotel, we checked into our rooms and went for McDonalds, just around the corner! Ice cream for Candice, milkshake for Jan 😉
I went for a walk through the old Muslim quarters, and found myself walking in very narrow streets with a lot of people, ‘restaurants’, and al kind of stuff for sale. Really interesting to see what people eat, drink or otherwise consume. My favorite was the ‘egg-kebab-stick’. Or maybe the ‘sticky-rise-with-sugar-dessert-stick’. Ah, and I found the bicycle bell I was looking for. It’s like an old traditional bell, with two bells, producing a great ring-ring-ring-ring sound! My roommate Pascal says I put too much stuff on my bike, but it is good fun! The old Muslim quarter is a great place to walk around, relax, look at all what’s for sale, eat a little bit here and there. Perfect ending of a nice Silk Route day.
Although it was a rest day, I had to get up early. Zaibi has organized a tour to the Terracotta Army. This collection of terracotta sculptures was discovered by a group of farmers when they were digging a water well in the spring of 1974.
The warrior and horse sculptures are a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife, and to make sure that he had people to rule over.
The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. Other terracotta non-military figures were also found in other pits and they include officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.
It’s a one hour drive from the hotel and we get there around 08:30AM being one of the first. A Chinese tour guide, he ‘working name is Simon’, led us to the first and largest pit. Impressive! To me it seems a pretty weird idea to create terracotta warriors for the afterlife. But then again: different times, different ideas. And these terracotta warriors were made more than 2000 years ago. Although there are many warriors and I can imagine that it was a lot of work to create these, the size of the hall makes the sculptures themselves rather small. Even more due to the distance from where I’m able look at the sculptures.
Still, walking around the three pits, the terracotta warriors are impressive! It gives a really nice insight on China’s history. This has always been, and still is, a very proud nation which has created impressive things, including this terracotta army. And although there are many sculptures still buried in the ground and restoration will take a long time before completed, this was absolutely one of my highlights so far!
The afternoon is spend in bicycle cleaning, laundry and again a McDonalds Milkshake 😉
What a great city Xian is!