No historical records exist of the Terracotta Army, which was set to guard Qin Shi Huang’s tomb over two thousand years ago, and was only discovered accidentally by peasants sinking a well 28km east of Xi’an in 1974. Three rectangular vaults were found, constructed of earth with brick floors and timber supports. Today, hangars have been built over the excavated site so that the ranks of soldiers – designed never to be seen, but now one of the most popular tourist attractions in China – can be viewed in situ.

The army is probably the highlight of any trip to Xi’an, so don’t be discouraged by what greets arrivals: a vast car park and a tourist complex of industrial proportions whose main purpose seems to be to channel visitors through a kilometre-long gauntlet of overpriced, mediocre restaurants and souvenir stalls.

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