People—tourists, historians, archeologists—from all over come to Xi’an to see one thing: the Terracotta Army.
We hopped on a 2-hour flight ride from Shanghai to get to Xi’an. I recommend pre-booking a tour guide during your stay here because the airport is a ways away from the city center, getting around isn’t easy, and because the city isn’t a major city or a popular vacation destination, most places aren’t tourist-friendly or -equipped.
We hired a tour guide with a driver and van for our 3-day stay (he was great and I’d be happy to pass his contact – simply comment on the post below). He took us to our very first stop: the Xi’an Art Ceramics and Lacquer Factory, even before the site museum to avoid the wild morning swarm, which turned out to be wise. As expected, the place was brimful of not just clay, but also tourists.
We even met a friendly old couple from Tennessee who was brimming with as much excitement as we were.
Every group is assigned to one in-house guide who takes time to detail the making of the sculptures, step by step. The artisans use a mold or cast to form the general shape of the head, body, arms, and legs. Shaping the head, along with the nose, eyes, and ears prove to be the most challenging. As you know, in the actual site, each of the Terracotta warrior’s face and facial expressions is distinct and unique; there are no two of the same.
Two things I found interesting: one, the head of each sculpture is made separate from the body, therefore it’s detachable; and two, the body is, in fact, hollow!
At the factory, you’ll get to see actual artisans working on different pieces of art. And despite the variety, one thing was clear: the intricacy and detailing that went into each piece of work was incredible!
And being a tourist, I did not forget to pose for the camera. If you remember nothing from this experience, at least remember to pose as a Terracotta warrior.
As you can imagine, the factory, yes, is probably what some would call commercialized and “out there to make money.” I don’t disagree. You do have to be picky about your purchases and their price tags. But hey, we learned a thing or two, and that’s never a bad thing!