Terracotta ArmyMay 22, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C
Aside from it being the official "start" of the Silk Road, Xi'an is perhaps best known as the access point for the fabulous Terracotta Army. Discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well, an army of life-size clay figures guards the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the despotic ruler who unified China over 2200 years ago. Obsessed with his own death, the Emperor began to build his mausoleum soon after he ascended to the throne at the age of 13. He wanted to ensure he was well protected in his after life - hence the army and associated resources. The project involved over 700,000 people and continued until his death at age 49. We were told that his poor treatment of those tasked with building his army resulted in the subsequent destruction of much of the work by the same group after his death! However, other stories have also been suggested to explain the damaged state of the warriors when found. Regardless, what we now see is the result of painstaking reconstruction of 1000s of damaged figures.
Over 7000 soldiers, archers and horses have so far been excavated from 3 pits. Each pit appears to serve a different function, with the infantry in pit 1, cavalry and soldiers in pit 2 and high ranking officers in the third pit (so presumably a command centre). Each warrior, originally coloured with pigment and holding a weapon, has an individually crafted expression. Exposure to air destroyed the coloured pigment. Interestingly, the actual tomb of the Emperor has not been excavated, largely because of high mercury levels that have been detected.
Walking into pit 1, we were greeted by the sight of 1000s of clay soldiers, separated by head high clay walls. Horses, with carriage drivers some distance behind, appeared ready for work. The wooden carriages were long lost to the elements, but the impressions of carriage wheels remained. The individuality of the warriors is very evident - even the hair styles vary.
Work continues on the restoration of the figures and it's possible to see the process in a action at the "hospital". The figures are carefully glued together, wrapped with rope and plastic wap to maintain the form and then air dried.
Following yet another large and tasty meal at a local restaurant, we headed to another less visited mausoleum - the tomb of the Han Emperor Jing. Entirely underground, this too containers terracotta figures, but are smaller, simpler and less individualistic. Apparently there are more than 50000 terracotta figures depicting daily life for the emporer everything from chickens to eunuchs. An excellent museum provided better viewing of the artifacts than the excavation site itself, which is barely lit to ensure longevity of the site contents.
After all that education a bit of light entertainment was called for, namely a Chinese dance and music show. Definitely worth seeing once....Read more