Well I was back on the overnight trains again, this time my destination was the ancient Chinese capital of Xi'an. Thirteen of the Chinese dynasties had their capital here due to it begin almost in the centre of China and due to the fact that the city has excellent natural defences being surrounded by various mountains and rivers.
Anyway, the main aim of journey here was to see the famous Terra-cotta Warriors. This army of over 8,000 soldiers was created by the first emperor China, Qin Shi Huang. This impressive man came to the throne of the Qin kingdom at the age of thirteen and by the age of 22 he had unified the seven warring Chinese kingdoms into a single unified country. During his impressive reign he created a single currency, a standardised writing script and was responsible for starting the construction of what is now known as the Great Wall of China (he has a few nasty legacies too but I won't go into them here). Coupled with these awesome achievements his tomb and burial area can only be described as a wonder of the world.
Now I had been warned by an informed source that the army was quite awe inspiring to see in person and to be prepared to be disappointed. I can see how they could seem disappointing as you don't get that close to them and the vast majority of them have been smashed beyond repair and sometimes you are just looking at a heap of broken clay with the odd discernible human arm or leg. Even the warriors that still stand upright and virtually intact had some holes or other visible flaws, indeed there is only one warrior that is 100% intact. The mitigating fact for this damage is that they are over 2000 years old have have survived looting and burning by a rival dynasties armies soon after their creation. However I have to disagree with my informed source (that means you Leah :-) ) as I was thrilled to finally see the soldiers that I had read so much about and watched so many documentaries on, up close (well as close as you are allowed get) and personal.
That said I'm a bit of a history bore, I'm the type to walk several kilometres searching for a nondescript plaque commemorating some historical event that is of interest to virtually no one other than myself and still get a thrill at being at the spot of some event of which I've read and studied. It comes from any childhood car journey being littered with detours as dictated by the book “Guide to National and Historic Monuments” (currently residing in my car boot :-) ).
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guide-National-Historic-Monuments-Ireland/dp/0717132390 Needless to say I was thrilled with my visit to this “eight wonder of the world”. It is startling to think that this army was modelled exactly on his personal guard and that every soldier is completely unique and that they lay undiscovered until a serendipitous placing of a well by some farmers in 1974. A few feet left or right and they would have been ignored again. Indeed in the photo below the large hole in the centre of the warriors is were a grave had been dug and yet the warriors were not discovered!
I didn't spend much time in Xi'an in total as I had a flight to Tibet booked but on my one night out on the town I saw a spectacular musical dancing fountain display by the Big Goose Pagoda that reminded me of the The Magic Fountain of Montjuic in Barcelona. It was the largest fountain of its type in Asia and the lights, lasers, music and dancing sprays of water were spectacular.