Former imperial capital / First leg of visit to China (April 28 2010)
Xi’an – former starting-point on the Silk route. It was at this one-time imperial capital that Carla and Nicolas Sarkozy began a three-day state visit to China on Wednesday April 28 2010. What better place to be introduced to Chinese history. Bingmayong – site of the Terracotta warriors – lies to the east of Xi’an. It was there that the founder of the Great Wall, the emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, personally launched work on what was to become his mausoleum. Some 500,000 men took up the task, labouring over the next 40 years to complete the emperor’s tomb. They say that the emperor feared death, so he erected a tomb that would be as impressive as his own fear. To that end he ordered the manufacture of 6,000 life-size warriors made of terracotta. The army stayed buried for two thousand years, to be eventually discovered in 1974 by a farmer who was digging a well. The terracotta army lies 1.5 kilometres from the emperor’s tomb, which for its part remained hidden from view. Some 20 kilometres north of Xi’an another emperor, Liu Qi, built a mausoleum at roughly the same time. This has been turned into a museum. The second port-of-call on the couple’s visit to Xi’an, Hanyangling contains a wonderful collection of archaeological remains, warrior figurines and clay horses.