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Are you a paranoid emperor who is afraid of your subjects not respecting you after death? Then build a giant ghost army to protect your tomb and rule an empire in the afterlife! The Terracotta Warriors were built by the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. After unifying China (which at that time was the area just around Xi'an) in 221 BCE he started work on his tomb and died eleven years later in 210 BC. To protect his tomb and rule another empire in the afterlife he ordered the construction of 8,099 soldiers and horses. The figures all face East in a rectangular battle array, and each have different facial features and expressions. Shortly after his death, the peasants revolted and quickly destroyed the warriors and set the tomb on fire, burying the soldiers in dirt and ash.
The warriors were left alone until the March of 1974 when a peasant digging for a well discovered the tomb by accident. The warriors were a mythical part of local folklore, and very few people actually believed they existed. Current estimates are that there are over 8,000 soldiers and 130 chariots, along with over 600 horses. The majority of which are actually still buried in the pits so yet to be discovered and restored. The find was a great discovery and the Terracotta warriors are now a major tourist sight. During peak times more people visit the warriors a day then there are actual warriors, so be prepared for crowds at times.
The site is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm.
RMB150 for the entrance ticket. The admission price includes entry to the vaults and museum, and a documentary on the warriors and their excavation.
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Getting to the warriors is not too difficult to do independently. The Terracotta Warriors are around 30 kilometres outside of Xi'an. If you go to Xi'an's main train station, there is a green bus which costs RMB7 per person and it drops you right outside the complex that house the warriors. Otherwise you can either arrange a tour or rent a taxi for the day.
Arranging a tour is very easy. All you have to do is go to your hotel or hostel desk and the staff will arrange everything for you. The other way is to find a travel agent, but then it is harder to make sure you get an English speaking guide. One of the major advantages of the tour is that you usually go to several other sights in the area including the old royal baths and a nice temple. Although the one disadvantage of a tour is the driver insisting on making several 'commercial stops' along the way at places such as silk factories and souveneir shops. Unfortunatly this happens often as the driver can earn some extra money by taking a commision on sales.
Another option is renting a taxi for a day from Xi'an. This might be a little cheaper (around RMB200) if you have a group, but it will not include a guide and make sure before agreeing to anything that you include other sights or not. Remember to always bargain when hiring a taxi for the day. A one way taxi is not a good idea, because any driver hanging around will most likely overcharge you for the return ride.
There are a couple of options for eating within the sights. Although most of them are terrible Chinese cafeteria food that is overpriced. The problem is that there is no were else to eat out by the warriors so your stuck with this option, unless you bring plenty of snacks with you. If you take an organised tour there is often a lunch stop after the warriors, which can be a better option.
There are plenty of vendors selling water, soda and beer around the warriors. Again, as with most tourist attractions the prices may be a little inflated, so perhaps bring drinks with you.
All accomodation options are in nearby Xi'an. There is plenty of choice available. Staying out at the warriors is not an option.
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