Have a wonderful weekend in Xi'an

In its previous incarnation as Chang’an, Xi’an was the first imperial capital of China. Vestiges of this ancient world remain dotted in and around the city, ensuring its place on tourists’ ‘must-see’ lists. November, although cold (average daytime temperatures are around 10°C), is a good time to visit to avoid the crowds and make the most of cheaper flights and accommodation.


The warriors


Qin Shi Huang terracotta soldiers and horses


The first emperor of China, Qin Shihuang (221-210BC), envisioned an army of protectors in his afterlife and commanded that thousands of terracotta soldiers be buried with him upon his death. Thanks to their chance rediscovery 38 years ago, by a group of local farmers digging a well, we mortals can now ogle them too. Located 23 miles outside the city centre, the Museum of Terracotta Warriors actually consists of three pits (Binmayong; 029 8139 9047; open 8.30am-5pm daily; 150RMB; buses 306 and 307 leave frequently from Xi’an train station).


The first is arguably the most impressive: rows of fully excavated, life-size soldiers and horses stand, as they would have when they were first buried more than 2,000 years ago, in trenches below your feet. Pit two contains the archers, generals and chariots, while pit three is thought to be the command centre.


Last year, a further two smaller pits were opened to the public. Located next to the burial mound of the emperor, these pits contain terracotta officials and topless male performers. The same ticket that gets you into the Museum of Terracotta Warriors allows you access to the burial mound area and it is a free, 10-minute shuttle bus ride away.


The tomb of Jingdi


Almost as fascinating, but with fewer visitors, is the tomb of Jingdi (Hanyangling; 029 8603 1470; open 8:30am-5.30pm daily; 90RMB; bus 4 leaves hourly from Xi’an library), an emperor of the Han Dynasty, which succeeded the Qin Dynasty. Glass walls and floors allow you a closer look at the excavation site, although the figures here are only doll-size.


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