A phantom army, ancient gold pieces and an exciting
archaeological dig might sound like an “Indiana Jones” adventure,
but it can come to life for clients on Pleasant Holidays’ Treasures
of the Imperial Dynasties VIP tour a journey to Xian to see the
ancient relics of one of China’s most historic cities.
Known as the “palace city,” Xian (pronounced SHI-an) is the
treasure house of China. It was the capital for 13 of China’s
imperial dynasties, but after the Tang Dynasty, civil war destroyed
the city and its palaces. However, buried treasure in the thousands
of tombs located throughout the Shaanxi province remains, and
preservation of the findings is an ongoing effort.
The Terra-Cotta Warriors
Thousands of visitors come to Xian every day to explore
one of the region’s most well-known attractions, the Museum of the
Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses of the Emperor Qin Shihuang.
Unearthed in the early 1970s, the finding of Emperor Qin’s
Terra-Cotta Warriors was quite possibly one of the most enticing
archaeological finds of the last century. Visitors can climb raised
platforms to look down on the restored warriors standing in
formation or view the vast pits through glass-enclosed
Creating a more intimate experience, Pleasant Holidays’ new tour
takes clients one step further, offering an up-close-and-personal
visit with the life-size terra-cotta army, something only 30 people
worldwide are able to do each day.
Clients can stand next to and even photograph the warriors in one
of the pits, as well as participate in a tour through the
Terra-Cotta Restoration Institute on site at the museum, where if
the timing is right visitors can view the painstaking
reconstruction of a warrior. During our visit, no reconstructions
were under way, but we were able to view the broken pieces of a
warrior, waiting to be resurrected.
After the museum, guests are taken to Pit No. 5, which is still
undergoing excavation and not open to the public. There, clients
can climb down into the pit to personally experience, from an
archaeologist’s perspective, the shattered remains of a warrior’s
There are two special sites in Xian that are only
available to clients on Pleasant’s new tour: the Shaanxi Provincial
Institute of Archaeological Research and the Xian Municipal
Hidden in a nondescript building off one of Xian’s bustling city
streets, the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeological
Research houses some of the region’s most beautiful pieces. For the
most part, the building is used as a research facility, and inside
its walls German scientists painstakingly restore the province’s
Here, clients can view ancient murals from the Han and Tang
dynasties. The murals were unearthed from various tombs around Xian
and are extremely well preserved. Currently, they are at the
institute for restoration. It can take up to three years to restore
some of the larger mural panels. The pieces restored at the
institute will eventually wind up in a museum or a gallery.
Clients are also taken to a gallery to view ancient Tang and Han
dynasty figures and a few life-size warriors. Before leaving, it is
also possible to visit the vault. Deep in the basement, the
temperature-controlled room houses some of the most delicate pieces
in the institute’s possession.
The Xian Municipal Institute of Archaeological Research houses
more than 130,000 antiquities with some of the most notable being
3,000-year-old bronze pieces from the Western Han Dynasty,
2,000-year-old wine as well as various jade, gold and porcelain
pieces. Making the visit even more significant is the interactive
nature of the experience. Visitors sit at a table wearing white
gloves as pieces are brought out. Each relic is placed on the table
and a translator explains its origins
During our visit, we handled ancient bronze mirrors molded in dirt
and then cast and carved. The ancient piece was still shiny enough
to glimpse my reflection. We also handled 3,000-year-old gold
pieces; jade and stone pigs often held by the dead to symbolize
wealth; and gold-and-black tigers. The only thing we didn’t get to
do was taste the wine surely aged to perfection.
The tour also includes many of Xian’s significant tourist
attractions, such as the Wild Goose Pagoda located next to the Xian
Municipal Institute. Clients can make rubbings on ancient stone
slabs at the Forest of Stone Seles Museum, a great souvenir for
friends or family. Visitors also tour the Shaanxi History Museum
where they view ancient murals on a special tour of the vault and
the brand-new Han Yang Lin Museum, a new $100 million complex of
underground pits and two burial mounds.
Clients participating in Pleasant Holidays’ Treasures of the
Imperial Dynasties program stay in five-star, luxury accommodation
in one of several Xian hotels. Our group stayed at the Sheraton
Xian, just outside the city and convenient for touring the region.