‘Xceptional ‘Xhibits in Xi’an, China #BlogchatterA2Z

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This post has been written for the theme “26 Places, 26 Memories” for the #AtoZChallenge.


Xi’an is the capital of the Shaanxi Province in central China. This large city has been the chosen capital of multiple Chinese dynasties. The real draw of the place, however, is its fascinating Terracotta Army or Bingmayong.

Local farmers in the area, discovered life-sized terracotta figurines buried underground, while digging the land in 1974. Slowly, archaeological sites in Xi’an’s surrounding plains uncovered thousands of life-sized, hand-moulded figures buried with China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang.

I visited Xi’an on a trip to China with my family and close family friends, in April 2009. We covered Beijing and Shanghai and spent a night in Xi’an. China is a cultural experience beyond anything you’ve imagined. It was like being transported to a different world. Though the entire trip was memorable, this visit really stood out.


The grimy streets and crowded by lanes of Xi’an were so unlike the orchestrated sparkle of Beijing and the slickness of Shanghai; that even our short visit seemed too much when we arrived. It was like walking through Daryaganj in Delhi- not for the faint of heart!

The archaeological site had long lines of tourists patiently waiting to buy tickets, and the large crowds added to my irritability. However, when we finally entered after navigating the serpentine queue, I was completely blown away.

There were rows upon rows of massive statues of men in full military dress holding weapons. Each statue was life-sized and completely life-like; with unique expressions, some angry, some serene, some sad. Each statue was dressed according to its military rank; and carried an assortment of weapons, no two soldiers with the exact same. The peripheries of the room housed other items that were found buried along with the army, as well as explanations of this wondrous exhibit in Chinese and English.

We learnt that thousands of figurines including soldiers, chariots and horses, had been buried along with emperor Qin Shi Huang, in perhaps the largest recorded funerary art display in the world. The army was buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE to protect him in his afterlife. Further along, other pits were found with non-military figures including officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.

Having studied China’s ‘Middle Kingdom’ philosophy in my History Honours course, I was amazed to experience it in person. The philosophy describes China’s belief of being the centre of the world for centuries. This made them feel that they were superior to other countries, and also ensured that they remained self-sufficient, without resorting to trade of any kind. Further, its leaders imagined themselves to be divine, deserving of a royal coterie after their death.

Can you imagine what a waste of money, time and energy it was to create over 8000 life-sized terracotta figurines, only to bury them? I was astounded by the vanity of this man! Though an exquisite work of art and history, these enormous statues are also a poignant reminder of human greed. No picture can do them justice, one has to see them in person to really take it all in.

That day, I learnt never to roll my eyes at the local sightseeing. The crowds and grime were a small price to pay, to witness a magnificent and unforgettable piece of history 😉

Come back tomorrow for the letter Y and another story!

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The archaeological site with the Terracotta Army or Bingmayong in Xi’an, China 

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Enjoying the sights and sounds of Xi’an, China, April 2009

X for Xi'an, China

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A for AmritsarB for BhopalC for CambodiaD for Delhi,  E for England, F for France, G for Gwalior, H for Hemkund Sahib, I for Italy, J for Jim Corbett National Park, K for Kamakhya Devi Temple, L for London, M for Munich, N for NaplesO for Odisha,  P for PragueQ for Qila Mehrangarh Jodhpur, R for Rishikesh, S for Singapore, T for Tarifa in Spain, U for Udhampur in Jammu & Kashmir, V for Velassaru in Maldives, W for Westminster City in London


  1. We skipped visiting Xian on our trip to China and we still kick ourselves for doing so! What a sight it must have been , 8000 clay silent soldiers standing at attention. Your posts have been such a delight, Noor. Beautiful writing and awesome pictures!

  2. Wow! This is one of THE places I have been wanting to visit, very glad to hear about your cultural immersion to this place. I wonder what caused the emperor to build this teracota army, what beliefs or myths made him to get there. Did he think they would rise up and fight to make him invincible? History is enormous pockets of wonderfully woven stories. In this case, it is embraced in stunning art form. I would love to visit this sooner rather than later 🙂

  3. China tak nahi baki rakhe ho tum. You are travel goals girl. My wanderlust has been in dormant stage, all thanks to the kiddos admissions. Your posts have managed to make me crave for a vacation. Summer vacation it is for my next destination exploration

  4. Great info about Chinese history and beliefs. Problem is despite their superiority complex, China still remained colonised, opium addicted and over populated like India. Yes, they have made spectacular progress in certain areas, as you said most of China barring Beijing and Shanghai still remains to be modernised in terms of physical infrastructure. Though India does not have a city comparable to Sanghai, or Beijing, I think we face the similar problem.

    1. Abhijit that complex referred to a time before the European powers cut up the “Chinese Melon” by introducing opium to the masses. After that the West took over in their race to superiority. Now of course, China is gaining ground as a power to reckon with, by adopting other methods.

  5. Seriously making them to bury them doesn’t go down my throat as well. Experiencing China is an altogether different ball game buddy, isn’t it?

  6. its just amazing, what a place you have explored !!!!! yes, lots of money were wasted in making but yet the creation is just awesome. The money,energy and time were wasted out of certain faith and it happens in this era also.

  7. First of all – how do we pronounce the name Xi’an????
    Awesome post of an awesome place. Glad you persisted inspite of the crowd and grime. You would have missed such a treasure otherwise.

  8. Curious Chinese tradition!
    i was just wondering… this Ozymandias sure had a good hold on his people…. strangely they agreed to build an entire terracotta army for him just to be buried after his death. very devoted subjects.

  9. I have also been to China and I like the way they follow traditions. I visited a temple in Shanghai and it was an amazing experience for me.

  10. I am sure some of the statues would have come alive with so much beauty around them. I love how you come up with these titles with three letters. Nice one. Hopefully someday…China too.
    #ContemplationOfaJoker #Jokerophilia

  11. If I had all the money in the world I would have never come back home and would be traveling the whole world. Your blog entice me to travel more.

  12. I have read about this emperor’s funeral while reading a book on Xi’s dynasty. Its brutal and true communist to its face. Also, those statues are quite a famous tourist destination.

  13. To me China is a land of secrets and it’s very amusing what the history holds for us. The terracota army is something I would like to read more about. Thanks for sharing

  14. I have always been fascinated by these onscreen…thankyou for such amazing writeup

  15. I find these life-sized terracotta figurines in Xi’an fascinating. I have seen some documentaries and hope to see it in person someday. Good that you have explored this part of the world too 🙂

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