Terracotta Army Xi'an

Great Mosque Xi'an

Xi'an in central China was the capital to' 13 dynasties including the time of the Silk Road so formed the starting (or ending) point.

Until 1974 is was a middling size Chinese city with an auspicious history and the best preserved city Wall in China but it all changed one day in that year when a farmer digging a well just caught the corner by inches of what turned out to be the major archeological find of the late twentieth century: the 'Terracotta Warrior' mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor Quinshihuang built in the third century BC. For the record it did not change the farmer's life as he was barely rewarded, but he did get to sign books for visitors for some years.

The result is now known around the world with 20 million visitors a year, 30 percent from overseas and has brought wealth to the city and a boom in building construction to support its expanding population of over 8 million. Two additional pits have been opened up since the first one opened in 1979 and much has been learned from the original mistakes which led to damage, especially colour loss, from the first excavations. The crowds at the first pit were overwhelming but less so in pits 2 and 3 which are smaller and better presented. It seems that these problems may prevent many of the many additional sites ever being opened up so perhaps it is better to let sleeping dogs lie. It is however curious to note that the emperor started work (not personally of course) at the age of 13 on getting the site prepared as as final resting place 38 years later, not normally something most 13 year olds worry themselves about, though Winston Churchill was know to enjoy playing with his (toy) soldiers when a lad.

His belief was that life on earth was just the first phase, killing off your enemies so that with his demise he could command his troops to continue his warring ways in phase two as all his troops faced the enemy's direction to the south.

As a sideline, there is an excellent exhibition in the local museum of wall paintings lifted from emperors' tombs for which a hefty charge is made unless you are over 70 in which it is free. That's the good bit, but then having got your free ticket you cannot enter unless accompanied by a fit and able under 70 year old which can prove difficult for senior groups of foreigners. Elf and Safety, Chinese style. Makes you feel even older.

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