The summer before my sophomore year of college my good friend Janet invited me to go with her to LACMA‘s exhibition on China’s famous Terracotta Warriors. I remember being so excited for this exhibition and talked it up for the weeks leading up to the big day. Then, when the big day finally came, the line to the exhibition was long, the day was hot and it felt so crowded but it was all worth it.
LACMA’s Terracotta Warrior exhibition was one of the best exhibitions I had ever been to, and well, my experience visiting the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an was not all that different. Except this time, we got to see the Warriors in their natural resting place.
Our trip to the Terracotta Warriors began in Xi’An where we grabbed a public bus to see the warriors. We got off to a great start with an impromptu stop for dumplings when we saw a long line of locals waiting – our San Francisco predilection for waiting in long lines kicked right in! Armed with a bag full of dumplings for about $2, we set off to catch the bus at the train station. We needed a little help from a younger Chinese couple to locate the right bus (we knew we needed Bus #306, 914, or 915), but we were soon on the right path. It took a little less than an hour and a half to arrive, and from there we just followed the crowds. And by crowds, I mean CROWDS – there were so many people!
With that said, the ease of travel that comes with an organized tour group is not worth it when visiting the Terracotta Warriors. In fact, getting there and viewing the museum independently will allow you to get the most out of your experience.
Here is my advice for visiting the Terracotta Warriors without an organized tour:
- Leave early in the morning to avoid the crowds (and heat in the summer).
- Buy water and snacks before you leave Xi’an.
- Download the wikitravel page for Army of Terracotta Warriors and Horses before leaving the hotel.
- Take Bus #306, 914, or 915 and expect to pay about 8¥/person). The street leading up to the train/bus station is filled with bus stops. None of these stops are what you are looking for. You must walk outside the old city walls and look for a large parking lot filled with buses.
- Once you arrive, bypass all the guides offering tours and head straight to the ticket office. Expect to pay about 150¥/person. Although the guides’ prices sound enticing, the crowds in the museum are huge. You can barely reach the viewing points let alone have a guide be loud enough for you to hear their information, so save yourself the money, and enjoy the moment.
- Buses back to Xi’an run simultaneously. You will not wait long.
As we were exploring the exhibition, I couldn’t help but compare this visit to my earlier visit at LACMA, with the biggest difference being the ability to get up close and personal with the warriors. At LACMA, I felt like I could get almost nose to nose with the Warriors, and inspect all of their details. However, with so many people tromping through the museum in China the reality of getting that close is just unrealistic. Overall, I felt my Terracotta Warrior experience was complete having experienced both the LA and Chinese version of the exhibition.
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