Day trip to Xi’an

After exploring Beijing, we decided to visit Xi’an, which is home to the Terracotta Army buried during the rule of the first Emperor Qin. It is only a two-hour direct flight from Beijing and therefore we decided to just do a day trip so we don’t have to check out from our hotel in Beijing.

Xi’an is an ancient city and is the oldest of the country’s Four Great ancient Capitals. It was the capital of China prior to the Ming dynasty. Today, it is the capital of the Shaanxi province, a sub-provincial city in the northwest part of China situated in the middle of the Guanzhong plain. Xi’an is also famous because it is the starting point of the Silk Road, referred to as the ancient network of trade routes connecting areas of the east and west of the Asian continent together; for example: from Japan and Korean peninsula to the Mediterranean Sea. Xi’an is also where the Lantian Man, a subspecies of Homo erectus, was discovered not just long ago that date back to at least 500,000 years ago. The city became a political and cultural centre during the 11th century when the Zhou dynasty started to rule China.

Xi’an remains to be an integral city in China and is an important centre for culture, industry, and education, as well as the centre of the country’s space program. It is one of the most populous city in China, with a population of almost 14 million people in its metropolitan area.

Metro, buses and taxis are available in Xi’an, as well as electric bicycles.

Xi’an City Wall

Our first stop was the Ming Dynasty City Wall, which is about a 40-minute drive (35 km) from Xianyang International Airport. It is the oldest, largest and most well-preserved city wall in China. There are several gates, towers, tunnels, watchtowers in the surrounding wall, as well as battlements from which arrows were shot.

Built during the rule of Ming’s first Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang in the 14th century, the wall covers city area of about 14 km2. The gates of this wall were the only way to go in and out of the city and therefore were strategic points and defended to the end.

This wall was built over a pre-existing wall from the Tang Dynasty around the years 618 to 907. It was during the Ming dynasty that Xi’an became the capital of China.

Terracotta Army

The Terra Cota Army Military Museum is about a 40-minute drive (40km) to the east of Xi’an City Wall. It features a collection of about 8,000, 130 chariots and 670 horses, of which the majority remain buried near the mausoleum of China’s 1st ruler, Emperor Qin Shi Huang.  Built around 246 BC together with the mausoleum upon his ascension to the throne at the age of 13, it took 11 years to finish. The purpose of these terracotta army was to protect the Emperor in his afterlife.

The museum covers an area of about 16,300 m2 and divided into 3 pits, tagged in the order of their discoveries. There is also the Exhibition Hall of the Bronze Chariots.

These terracotta figures are life-sized and interestingly vary in uniform, face, height and even hairstyle depending on rank. They are of general armoured warriors and most of them originally held real weapons such as swords, crossbows and spears, but they were looted and stolen.

The Terracotta Army was uncovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well in search for water about 1.6 km of Emperor’s Qin tomb. Up to today, archaeological studies continue to take place to investigate and conduct research on this ancient site.

Also, high levels of mercury have been found in the soil of tomb mound. It is believed Emperor Qin was buried with palaces, towers, officials and valuable artifacts and therefore guarded by flowing rivers and land simulated with mercury.

Our cultural trip to Beijing and Xi’an proved to be not only very informative, but an absolute fun time to meet up with good friends while studying another country’s history and culture. The precious and funny moments shared among us was limitless. A special thanks to Farid Ganio Tjokrosoeseno, Krishna Suharnoko and Ima Chambers, my super-fun travelling companions, for sharing this unforgettable journey. Until we meet again!