Feel like an emperor in Xi'an hotel

Mr Guo Zhihua places replicas of terracotta warriors in the rooms (above and below) which he calls Pit One, Two and Three, after the pits at the Emperor Qinshihuang Mausoleum Site Museum where the actual statues are.
Mr Guo Zhihua places replicas of terracotta warriors in the rooms (above) which he calls Pit One, Two and Three, after the pits at the Emperor Qinshihuang Mausoleum Site Museum where the actual statues are.PHOTO: XINHUA
Mr Guo Zhihua places replicas of terracotta warriors in the rooms (above and below) which he calls Pit One, Two and Three, after the pits at the Emperor Qinshihuang Mausoleum Site Museum where the actual statues are.
Mr Guo Zhihua places replicas of terracotta warriors in the rooms (above) which he calls Pit One, Two and Three, after the pits at the Emperor Qinshihuang Mausoleum Site Museum where the actual statues are.PHOTO: XINHUA

The Airbnb-style hotel opened by a former taxi driver has more than 200 terracotta warrior replicas

XI'AN • Try to picture life-sized terracotta sculptures by your side as you eat, sleep and use the bathroom.

A hotel in Xi'an offering this fully immersive experience has become popular with both Chinese and foreign guests.

The three themed suites, ranging from 80 to 100 sq m each, are located in downtown Xi'an, home to the terracotta army.

Discovered in 1974, the army is one of China's biggest tourist attractions, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

It was built by Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) who unified China for the first time in history.

The Airbnb-style hotel is owned by Mr Guo Zhihua, a 53-year-old Xi'an resident. A taxi driver in the 1990s, he spent most of his life driving tourists to see the warriors in the Emperor Qinshihuang Mausoleum Site Museum.

"Many of my colleagues parked their cars and chatted with one another. But I preferred to go to the pits with my passengers to tell them stories about the warriors, like a tour guide. Over the years, I have grown to like the warriors very much," he said.

He placed more than 200 warrior replicas in the three hotel rooms, which he named Pit One, Two and Three. The sculptures are under the beds, the wash basins, in front of toilet seats and in the walls. Tiles and pillowcases are also painted with images of the stern-faced soldiers.

As the bed light shines through a specially coated cover, the images of the warrior formations multiply so that the guest can feel like an emperor reviewing his troops, Mr Guo said.

His rooms, costing US$100 (S$136) to US$200 a night, have drawn thousands of visitors from 30 countries and regions since the hotel opened in 2008 when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics.

"I was banking on the growing interest in Chinese history," he said.

The hotel is fully booked until May.

"One day, I received 400 reservations in two hours," he said.

Xi'an is a popular tourist site. During the three-day New Year holiday, the city received 2.453 million tourists, up 17.16 per cent year on year. Tourists spent 983 million yuan (S$195 million), up 24.24 per cent.

Despite the hotel's rising popularity, some people discount it as a cheesy replica and say it is horrifying to sleep in a tomb.

One lodger complained in a viral video that he could not sleep the whole night with warriors staring him down.

Mr Guo remains unfazed.

"I'd like to offer more history-themed hotels with Han and Tang Dynasty decorations so overseas tourists can truly experience Chinese history and then back home, tourists can carry on the Chinese culture," he said.

XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2019, with the headline 'Feel like an emperor in Xi'an hotel'. Print Edition | Subscribe