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The former Silk Road city of Xi'an is close to the Terracotta Army and home to a vibrant Muslim Quarter.

Today it is a bustling Chinese mega-city, but the historic walled city of Xi'an was one of the cradles of Chinese civilisation, the starting point of the legendary Silk Road and the capital of eleven different dynasties. This heritage is explored on the perfectly maintained city walls, the Great Mosque and Muslim quarter, the impressive stelae museum, the intricate bell tower and two towering traditional pagodas.

For most, the major attraction lies some 20 miles outside the city. The UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site of the Terracotta Army consists of three giant pits, excavated to reveal over 8,000 individually sculptured clay soldiers, archers and horses, protecting the nearby tomb of the first emperor of the Qin dynasty - Qin Shihuang. Aside from the sheer number of life-size figures, what is truly remarkable is the incredible level of craftsmanship and detail of each, with their own facial expression and hairstyle. Even more impressive is the fact that they were originally all equipped with weapons and painted in vibrant colours, pigments of which can still be seen if you look closely enough.

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Hugh Clayson

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