Pedaling Through Xi’an



This past weekend we traveled as a group to Xi’an.  Xi’an is not only a vibrant modern city, but also has thousands of years of history.  Xi’an was the capital of the first Chinese dynasty and served the same purpose for 9 other dynasties.  One of the biggest cultural and historical sites in Xi’an is the Terracotta Warriors.  While we were there we not only visited the Terracotta Warrior museum, but also had the opportunity to see and tour all three pits where the warriors have been found.

Seeing the warriors was an interesting experience.  They were buried underground, in battle formation, to stand guard and protect the body of the emperor.  A few years after the emperor’s death, however, people unhappy with the way things were being handled in China, broke into the area where the warriors were and smashed them into little tiny pieces.  They then set the wooden roof on fire so that it would collapse and destroy any warriors they had missed.  Following this incident, the warriors were forgotten about and not discovered again until the 1970s when a few farmers were digging a well and found broken pieces of the warriors.  The men were not sure what they had found but believed it to be a body of a god and were scared that they may have angered him.  When the news of the warriors was finally passed on to a higher official, the hole was expanded and the warriors were uncovered.

The intact warriors on display today have all been meticulously put back together. Although today the warriors are all brown and a little dull in color, they were once colorfully painted and decorated.  Pieces of warriors have been found with red, yellow, green, blue, and even purple coloring.  Unfortunately, when the colored pieces have been exposed to open air the color begins to fade and very few pieces have retained their color after being removed from the ground.  Scientists are working on developing a way to preserve the color but, thus far, nothing has worked.  It is estimated that between the three separate pits there are over 8,000 Terracotta Warriors.  Despite the large number of warriors though, there are no “twins” as our tour guide called them – each warriors is unique.

After visiting the warriors we all went to the Old City Wall.  While the view from the top of the wall was pretty good, the real attraction of the wall was the ability to bike on top of the wall.  While our entire group did not want to bike, a group of us happily rented bikes and set off to explore a portion of the 8-mile city wall loop.  With a mix of both tandem and single bikes we knew we were in for a wild ride.  After a bit we stopped to snap photos of each other on the bikes and chat about how this semester has flown by.  We all had a great time riding on the wall and remembering childhood afternoons and family vacations filled with bike rides.

There are so many things in China that are different from the US, but some things are universal.  Riding a bike on the Old City Wall in Xi’an was one of those moments where it hit me again that no matter how different we think that China and the US may be, there are ways in which they are exactly the same.  The feeling of freedom and joy I get from the wind whipping past me on a bike is universal in any country!