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1:30 pm | Xi’an

Finding the lost city

Maybe you read about it as a child in National Geographic. Or perhaps your city was lucky enough to host a traveling exhibition featuring artifacts from it. Whatever your association, the Emperor’s Lost City is one of the great archaeological finds in human history and a must-see destination in China.

If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick recap: In 1974, two farmers were digging for a well when they stumbled upon a buried chamber. Inside, they found terra-cotta clay soldiers, acrobats, officials, guards, horses and even chariots. The catch? Everything was life-sized and no two people, animals or chariots were exactly the same. So what was it?

Above: The museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses

The digging began and an army was found.

Archaeologists were called in and a formal excavation began. Today, over 40 years later, an army of thousands of terra-cotta people, horses and chariots have been found, each arrayed as if standing in permanent sentry. And in a sense, they were. Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who commissioned the creation of this grand and ancient army, had intended for them to guard him in the afterlife, all as part of a much larger tomb compound that stretched out for miles and hasn’t yet been fully excavated. The stories abound about what’s inside the tomb. Legend says rivers of quicksilver ran inside the tomb walls, protecting the Emperor from his enemies. And from the high levels of mercury found in the soil, it may very well be true.

Getting there from Hong Kong.

Today, the terra-cotta army and other artifacts found are housed at the Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses, where one of the largest pits has been covered over to allow easy viewing from above. Located in Shaanxi province (Lintong District) in the city of Xi’an, it’s a place well visited by locals and tourists alike and one you can reach with relative ease from Hong Kong via bus, train or airplane, depending on your budget and travel needs. From a speed standpoint, air travel is the fastest option at three hours. Cathay Pacific flies direct via Dragon Air, with many flights leaving daily out of Hong Kong International Airport. Upon arrival in Xi’an, you’ll need to arrange for transportation to the museum, about an hour outside the city. A local tour guide is a great way to learn the history and avoid any travel issues. Once there, plan to spend a couple hours. The museum is expansive and large crowds can make visiting a slow process. But once you experience it, we think you’ll agree it’s just as amazing today as it was when it was first created over 1,000 years ago.

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