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Xian and Terracotta Warriors

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Life-sized terracotta warriors seen in their original location where they were unearthed.

Xi'an (Xian) - A historic city where China's first emperor Qin (Chin) ruled the whole China (see Chinese dynasties) and the capital of China for 13 dynasties and over one thousand years, it is now the capital city of Shaanxi province. Once the center of China, Xi'an is now considered economically the "west" of China, although geographically it is still in the central region.

There are many places worth seeing in Xian, like the Banpo Village Ruins (an ancient community of some 6000 years ago), the Wild Goose Pagoda, the Hauqing Spring Pool resort used for emperors of many dynasties, but the most attractive to tourists, foreign or domestic, are the terra cotta warriors -- buried in the ground for over two thousand years and just unearthed some 40 years ago. For this reason, Xian is considered a must-see city for tourists to China.

The terracotta warriors are all "custom-made", no two warriors are exactly the same.

The Terracotta Museum is located in Lintong County of Xian, a short drive to the east from Xian city proper and just 1500 meters (about 1 mile) from Emperor Qin's tomb. It is listed as a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO.

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Emperor Qin Shihuang began building his mausoleum right after he came to power, taking over 10 years to finish. It is believed that the life-sized terracotta warriors and horses are placed there to "protect" the emperor in his tomb.

A closer look of a terracotta warrior.

There are three sites (pits). Pit No. 1 is the largest of the three pits and also the first one uncovered. It measures 230 meters by 62 meters, with a total area of 14260 m2. About 4000 m2 were unearthed, 2000 pottery warriors and horses, 20 wooden chariots. The chariots and army troops are in rectangular formations. Pit No. 2 holds a winding formation of chariots, army troops and cavalries, and has been left untouched. Pit No. 3 pit seems more like a command headquarter and the terracotta uncovered so far are mostly damaged. The museum was built on the original site for better protection.

How were the terra cotta warriors uncovered

Considered to be the most significant archeological finding of the 20th century, the terra cotta warriors were discoved by accident. In 1974, three farmers were digging for a well near the tomb and they found some pottery. Being educated and sensitive to what they found, they immediately reported to local authorities. Archeologists came and expanded the digging, which finally established the scale and formation of the whole site. Authorized by State Council, the Terracotta Museum was built on site beginning in 1975 and was open to public in 1979.

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Damaged terracotta parts in Pit 3.

How to get to Xian:

Direct flights are availble from major Chinese cities like Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong. You may also take overnight train from Beijing on a sleeper, and you arrive at Xian rested.

There is also a Yangtze Cruise route departing from Shanghai and will take you to Xian and Beijing.

Area attractions:

Hua Shan Mountain, famous for its steepness, is just a short 2 hour train ride from Xian.

Information for self-guided tourist:

The best way to get to Terracotta Museum is to take the special tourist bus (bus No. 306) from Xian Railway Station. This bus is operated by the city metro bus company and stops at 8 tourist destinations on the east side of the city, including Banpo Village Ruins, Huaqing Spring Pool, Mausoleum of Emperor Qin, and Lintong Museum. Plan to spend a whole day on the route.

Related story:

China's Terracotta Army on the move: exhibition at the British Museum in London.

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