Terracotta Army Warriors: A Short Day Trip From Xi’an, China
On a whirlwind trip through China, I was whisked from one end of the country to the other. As I was overcome by travel illness for the bulk of the trip, coupled with not speaking the native language, most days were filled with pretty sites and photo-ops. However this experience was somewhat lacking, as there was little understanding on my part of what I was actually seeing. When I am traveling, half of the excitement for the trip is drawn from my anticipation of where I am going, and the other half is from experiencing it. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the Terracotta Army site without ever hearing about it before…
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Here’s a brief and simplified history lesson: From 260 to 210 BC there lived a man named Qin Shi Huang who was China’s first Emperor. He was able to conquer all of the warring states and not only unify but bring peace to the land in 221 BC. He created the title of Emperor and ruled during the Qin dynasty. Through his rule Qin Shi Huang set a precedent for China to have emperors and dynasties for the next two-thousand year period.
Although Qin Shi Huang was famous for many things including erecting the Wall of China (a precursor to the Great Wall of China) and expanding China with an interconnected road system, he is most famous for his Terracotta Army. Later in life as he aged Qin Shi Huang became obsessed with death and spent a considerable amount of time on the search for an immortality elixir. He also commissioned a mausoleum of clay warriors to be constructed with the purpose of continuing his rule after death or maybe to vanquish all the evil spirits in the afterlife.
The Archaeological Site Itself
To truly visualize this experience, imagine walking into a warehouse filled with thousands of life-sized, clay warrior replicas. If that doesn’t leave you speechless – nothing will. So far the army recovered is geographically spread out over 8500 square meters of land with only Pits 1, 2 and 3 being accessible to the public. Pit 1 was initially found when the local farmers were drilling a well site in 1974. Each pit is excavated by a different amount and many warriors and pits still remain uncovered even today.
The warriors in all the pits are facing outwards from the inner mausoleum and the tomb where the Emperor is buried. In pit 1 all of the warriors are facing east and are ready to do battle. The first rows contain the Archers followed by rows of Soldiers with hand weapons. The archers are either of the standing or kneeling variety and easily distinguished by their stance. The cavalry and horses fill up the next rows.
Attention to detail with this army was so high-level that the warriors were even assigned ranks of mid-ranking officers and high-ranking officers such as generals. All of the warriors were said to be modeled after real people; no two warriors have the same facial features, coloring, hairstyles, footwear tread or specific weapon designs.
Modern Technology IS Still Problematic
The main issue of uncovering the clay is that the unique paint designs for each warrior has faded with the exposure to light and air conditions. Rapid oxidation can occur within 4 minutes of them being exposed to the elements. Pit 1 has a display of over 2,000 of the original 6,000 warriors in bright light conditions as the warriors have no paint left on them and most of the space is uncovered. The lighting in pits 2 and 3 is much dimmer and the climate much cooler to help preserve these areas. Another issue with excavating the statues is that many of the warriors are in different conditions – some are fully preserved but others are headless, armless, legless or completely degraded.
Ready To Travel Back In Time?
If you are a history buff, this isn’t a place you want to miss. Imagine learning about thousands of years of history in a single day. Plan a visit to see the Terracotta Army warriors and visit lovely Xi’An. There really isn’t any replacement for seeing and experiencing something truly amazing first-hand.
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