Either side of the entire road from the outskirts of Xian to the Qian Tombs were nut trees – almonds and walnuts and thousands of bits of plastic or paper tied to the trees to keep the birds away and as we got closer there were orchards of plum, apricot and peach trees. There were many locals selling these at the site.

The Tang Dynasty’s Qianling mausoleum site is incredibly impressive with thousands of steps to the top of the hill and then a very long walkway up to 61 statues of headless figures. Along the walkway are many statues dotted along both sides. The case with most of the important burial sites is that the actual tombs are further away so that the grave robbers could not find them. This didn’t work for all of them. The tombs of Emperor Tang Gaozong and the only Chinese Empress WuZetian are not open but tombs of Princess Yongtai, Prince Yide and Prince Zhanghuai are open to the public and are about 3kms away.

As usual there are no signs in English other than “watch your step” ticket office” and take care of your belongings” but anything useful like a few signs telling you where you are and where you go to the tombs are nowhere to be found in anything but characters – good if you know Chinese or Japanese. A lot of people can say hello but after that there are bland looks even at the ticket counters and tourist information booths.

After we had climbed to where the monuments and wonderful statues stood and had a look around, we had more than an hour to kill before the bus left for Xi’an so we found out from a little private taxi man where the tombs were located and agreed on a price for an hour to take us there. We managed in the time to make our way down to three tombs and see where they were intered and the many frescos on the walls which were replicas as some of the originals were in the Shaanxi museum. The tombs however were interesting to see and one in particular was vast with antichambers with life sized figures of the court. In the neighbouring museum were hundreds of pottery figurines of people and animals and all sorts of utensils and useful items used in their daily life which were buried with them.

On the monday we got up early and caught the bus to the Qian Tombs which is about 85kms out of town. We had the slowest, safest bus driver on record. There was no traffic but he took over 2hours to get there on mainly good highway. The long distance buses usually only depart when they are full so as we were some of the first to arrive we had an hour’s wait but we have learnt patience here in China where everyone stands in queues for hours. 

We waited until Tuesday to catch the local bus for $1 out about 35kms to Qin Shihuang’s mausoleum site museum which house the Terracotta warriors. The internet and the tourist office told us that the site opens at 8am so we got up early and got out there about 7.40am. The brass plaque above the ticket office stated 8.30am and it didn’t open until then when we got the first tickets. There is almost a small town of eateries and souvenir shops including life size terracotta warriors before you actually reach the ticket office. It is about a 15min walk or short mini bus ride to the gates. There there are four large impressive buildings housing pits 1,2,3 and the museum. Qin Shihuang who ordered the whole construction and artifacts made really wanted to outdo everyone in Chinese history and he obviously wanted to be well prepared for his afterlife as it is the most impressive collection of its kind and size covering 56kms in total area. It took 38years to complete with about 750,000 workers. The main pit and second pit are very large and the third pit quite a bit smaller. They will be excavating for a long time and they estimate somewhere between 6000-8000 warriors, horses, chariots, bronze sculptures of rare animals etc will eventually be found. Qin Shihuang also had 166 of his retinue plus horses with chariots buried alive with him when he was intered! Even some of the more insignificant prime ministers or princes had thousands of items buried with them.

We were lucky to have the all the pits virtually to ourselves before being inundated with tour groups which were in the main Chinese. The videos and artifacts in the museum were very interesting but the noise level there with all the tour groups was starting to get very loud by the time we left.

We walked up to the road and hailed the bus to take us back to Xi’an where we had some washing to do in the well equiped laundy at the appartments and I had an excellent pedicure and manicure which cost a total of $20. We want to take advantage of this value in China where they do an excellent job as it won’t be the same price I know in Dubai or Europe!

We bought a duck to eat one day and enjyed it so much that we bought another one the next day. They are roasted with spices and the shopkeeper chops it up for you.

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