Turkish Airlines has increased its direct flights from Istanbul to Xian, the historical starting point of the Silk Road, totaling up to four flights per week to the Chinese province, home to the Asian country’s famous underground Terracotta Army.
The direct flights by Turkey’s flag carrier initially began on Dec. 30 with three flights a week to the city.
The Chinese city, with its 3,000 years of history, hosts more than 2 million tourists every year and is the Turkish carrier's fifth destination in mainland China. The airline's four other destinations are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting Turkey has also gone up, with a 9% increase in the first 11 months of 2019, reaching 403,739. Turkish Airlines recorded 25.5 million transit passengers last year, along with some 42.4 million international passengers, reaching up to 5.9 million passengers from the Far East – a 7% increase. The occupancy rate of the airline was recorded as 85.7%.
Xian is one of the oldest cities in China, located 1,000 kilometers from Beijing and known as the beginning of the historic Silk Road. The city is famous for hosting the underground Terracotta Army built in 210 B.C. Tourists from around the world flock to the museum to see the more than 8,000 clay soldiers located in the mausoleum of the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, a site named in UNESCO's World Heritage List.
Studies have revealed that the clay soldiers, noteworthy for their different gestures and unique facial features in the grave in Xian, which hosted 11 dynasties, were the spitting images of soldiers deployed in the empire's army. The heights of the statues vary between 183 centimeters and 195 centimeters. The soldiers appear ready to fight, dressed in their personal armor and sporting hair knobs. The emperor built the underground grave because he believed the soldiers would protect him after he died. Several of the statues are on display at Istanbul's Topkapı Palace.
While only 65 of the 600 pits have been unearthed, it is estimated that 700,000 people worked for 37 years on the grave's construction. It has also been discovered that the army was spread over an area of 98 square kilometers. Many weapons have been found in the pits such as swords, spears, axes, machetes, shields and arrowheads, as well as 40,000 bronze weapon parts. It is believed that the workers who buried the underground army were killed and buried in these tombs so that the location of the tomb would remain hidden. While Qin Shi Huang, who defeated all the principalities in China, established the Qin Dynasty and proclaimed himself the emperor, construction of his tomb started while he was still alive.
The mysterious army was discovered in 1974 in the Lintong district when local farmers were drilling wells. The grave also includes 520 mounted troops, 130 chariots and 150 cavalry horses as well as tools and equipment, including war instruments. Many sculptures have yet to be excavated to keep their chemistry untouched until new technology to analyze them is developed. After the excavation of the Terracotta Army, the painted surface of some terracotta figures has begun to flake and disappear.
The emperor's tomb, accompanied by China's famous immortal army, has been dubbed the eighth wonder of the world and is located 36 meters underground. For the underground army, four main pits with a depth of nearly 7 meters were excavated, with the largest one measuring 230 meters long and 62 meters wide, consisting of more than 6,000 figures. The second and third pits include chariots, cavalry and infantry units and high-ranking officers.