Me-go: Around-the-World

How many terracotta warriors are there anyway?


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I originally wanted to travel from Beijing to Pingyao, a small city with original city walls, but all of the trains were full. October 1st–7th is China?s national holiday, a time when everyone in the country has the week off work. Because everyone wants to travel at once there is a tremendous shortage of tickets to just about anywhere within China. Technically, you can book a hard sleeper class ticket four days in advance but whenever I tried, either through a travel agent or the train station, all tickets were sold out. Most tickets are hoarded and given away as favors to friends or influential people. Eventually I gave up my plans to go to Pingyao and went ahead to Xi?an, home of the famous terracotta warriors. I had to book a soft sleeper at double the price of the standard ticket but I feared I would never get out of Beijing.

I had fairly low expectations of the terracotta warriors based on what I?d heard from other travellers. Apparently they are the most publicized site in China, which astounds me when you think about the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. I arrived from my 12 hour train ride in the morning and immediately booked my ticket out of Xi?an–I didn?t want a repeat of what had happened. The public bus line wound around itself four times and for once I wished that there was the usual pushing and shoving to get to the front. After a 45 minute wait for the bus and hour bus ride I entered the museum. It was a madhouse. Crowds of Chinese tourists were being lead around by tour guides with flags, people pushed in to the railings 5 people deep and everyone took flash pictures of themselves in front of anything they could find. There are two buildings housing the majority of the dig as it was discovered but I was shocked to see only a few hundred warriors altogether. I saw posters and photographs displaying more warriors but they were either on loan or never existed, I?m not quite sure. After throwing a few elbows around to get on a bus back I felt I had seen enough.

Xi?an surprised me though. I had heard it was horribly polluted and just another big city to get out of. Instead, I found a bustling city with lots of students and young people out flying kites, shopping and enjoying their holiday. The main shopping district was very modern but it was full of people to watch. I helped a college student with her English assignment and watched a group of kids attempt to breakdance in front of McDonalds. I also spent some time in the Muslim quarter of Xi?an, where one of the first Chinese mosques was built. The mosque was a beautiful mix of Muslim flourishes and traditional Chinese architecture. I don?t think many people realize that there are many cities in China with large concentrations of Muslim residents. I certainly didn?t expect to see any evidence of religion in China but that hasn?t been the case. Overall, China doesn?t feel communist aside from the giant monuments to Mao and the old men wearing blue jackets and matching caps.