For over two thousand years, Shaanxi Province was the cultural, economic and political core of China. Its cities, Xi'an included, were the capitals of over a dozen dynasties. The region, long before recent decades, already held a richness of attractions well beyond its relatively small size. But today, Xi'an is known first and foremost for its Terracotta Warriors.
The terracotta men, horses and chariots were ordered assembled by Shi Huang, the "First Emperor" and first leader in the short-lived, 3rd century BC Qin Dynasty. Soon after assuming the throne, Shi Huang ordered construction of his tomb and for added protection, had its richness protected by a subterranean, battle-ready army. Figures were placed upright in pits; wooden ceilings were added and then covered by earth. But soon after his death, uprisings and rebellions collapsed his dynasty. The pits housing the warriors were invaded, burned and they, too, collapsed.
Most of the terracotta figures and chariots were found broken, their once-vibrant colors scorched, washed away or muted by time. Excavation continues and to date, over 1,000 figures have been reassembled, now protected by overhead, warehouse-like structures as shown in this photograph.
Major Attractions of Xi'an:
Terracotta Warriors: Rarely is an archeological find actually a "discovery," as often labeled. Triumphs, when they come at all, follow years of careful research, exploration, and just plain dirty, dusty, digging. But what happened in 1974, a few miles outside of Xi'an, China, was very different. While digging a well, three brothers accidentally came upon one of the 20th century's greatest archeological treasures. There, buried just a few feet below the surface, were found the first of over 8,000 life-size terracotta figures of armed warriors, horses and chariots.
Xi'an City Wall: Through the centuries, most major cities in China – particularly capital cities – were well-fortified with walls and watchtowers. But today most have, at best, only remnants of their once-mighty fortifications. Xi'an is an exception, with an entire 9-mile rectangle of 14th century walls, watchtowers and gates intact. The 40-foot-high walls afford terrific views of the city below, and make for an easy - if sometimes crowded- bike ride around the circumference.
Shaanxi History Museum: This modern museum (1992) takes its design cues from Tang Dynasty (AD 618 – 907) architecture, but its relics chronicle thousands of years of China's civilization, from prehistoric times to the 20th century. When Europe was entering its Medieval Period, the Tang Dynasty, with Xi'an its capital, was flourishing. Often considered the most golden of China's "Golden Ages," the Tang Dynasty is well represented here. (letstravelchina.com)