Xi’an: An Historical Artifact

Xi’an, of all the cities we’ve visited thus far, completely embodies the historical monument that China represents in Asia. It has been populated for over 3000 years since the first Chinese dynasty and has also been immune to the skyscrapers and modernization that Shanghai has made so familiar. My favorite memory of first arriving in the ancient city was passing through the city wall, still intact after so many years. The wall is a symbol of simple beauty. Sentiments of safety and power resonate from the ancient bricks. I was shocked to learn from our tour guide Allen that Xi’an was also the Asian beginning of the Silk Road. I was humbled by the short history lesson Allen gave us on the bus ride to the hotel. Xi’an’s extensive history, as I would later see and experience, was far beyond the Terracotta Army that I was familiar with. Needless to say, I was excited to begin my short, 2-night exploration of the city.

Our first and only full day of sight seeing began with an hour-long trip to the ancient burial tomb that houses the Terracotta Warriors. I was overwhelmed with excitement to see the magnificent soldiers that I had heard about since 6th grade history class. The site is divided into 3 different pits in which thousands of soldiers were found. Archaeologists suggest that there are thousands of more soldiers still beneath, but in order to preserve the artifacts, they have and will continue to remain unexcavated. The main pit was massive and surely lived up to my expectations. Ordered in battle formation, they symbolized the strength and artistry of the ancient Qin dynasty. As we approached the area in Pit 1 where scientists rebuild the shambled warriors, I noticed some partially finished statues. Allen explained that a single warrior takes months to complete after cataloging all of the shards of clay, restoring their chemical attributes, and then using computer programs to virtually construct the fragmented warriors. Only after seeing the extremely well preserved soldiers up close was I able to appreciate the craftsmanship and artistry of the Qin sculptors. These were 7-foot tall, 400-pound statues that withstood thousands of years of erosion, while still maintain their highly detailed hair buns, facial structures, and even their boots. Overall, it was an enlightening experience and a site that is not only important to Chinese culture but the history of human civilization.

After visiting the Qin tomb, we headed to the city wall for a quick bike ride. The concept of the wall and moat that separate the inner city from the outer city was crucial in ancient times. The fact that Xi’an has kept this monument intact and have integrated it into 21st century life is a reminder that there are still parts of China that were sheltered by the cultural revolution and prosperity. This idea reflects much of what Xi’an has to offer. A city made by history that also embraces it.