A Day In Xi'an
The whole purpose of my taking a side trip to Xi'an was to see, up close and in person, the Terra Cotta Warriors or Xian. Like Machu Picchu in Peru, Ephesus in Turkey and the Acropolis in Greece, the Warriors in China are an amazing sight to behold; one that literally takes your breath away.
I've become quite interested in China's history this trip and hope to read and learn more about it. We've had a great enrichment speaker on board and his enthusiasm for and discussion about the country has fueled my own interest.
After a late evening flight of two-plus hours from Beijing, our guide for Xian met us at the airport and took us to our hotel for the night. The next morning we were up and ready to go see the Warriors.
On the way, and during our tour there, our guide told us the history of this fascinating site.
Way back in 246 BCE the very young and very first Emperor of China, a brutal little upstart by the name of Qin Shi Huang, decided he needed to have a grand mausoleum built and filled with warriors and horses and chariots to protect him in the afterlife. It took 36 years to create the mausoleum and soldiers, etc.
Thousands of artists and workers were used to create these
life-sized figures. They vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with what their rank was. While no two faces appear the same, scholars however have identified 10 basic face shapes. They were manufactured in workshops by government laborers and local craftsmen using local materials. Heads, arms, legs, and torsos were created separately and then assembled by putting the pieces together. When completed, the terracotta figures were placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty.
The faces were created using special molds and then clay was added after assembly to provide individual facial features to make each figure appear different.
Once all of the figures had been completed and placed inside the prepared pits, a wooden roof was built and placed up over the pits and then covered with clay and dirt, thus sealing the area.
Incredible to realize that such sophisticated methods used so long ago. When I learned this, it sparked a real interest in my mind, and that's why I want to learn more about China's history. They were really advanced so early on.
In 1974 some farmers were digging a new well and came upon fragments of terra-cotta pieces and contacted authorities who then brought in archeologists who discovered this vast complex. Comparing what they were finding to historical records (yes, written records from that far back) they realized and confirmed that they had found the mausoleum complex of the first emperor.
The actual burial site of the emperor is about a kilometer away, underneath a small rounded mountain top. Scientists have probed it and determined there is a burial chamber among other structures there but have been so far reluctant to unearth it, for fear of damaging what's inside as well as safety concerns about rivers of mercury there, based on the historical records. I really hope I live to see it opened.
If you look closely at the Warriors' hands, you will see that they appear to have been holding onto something at one time. They were placed in the pits with spears and swords and other weaponry and tools. But soon after the pits were covered up by the workers, looters and rebels invaded the place, stole many of the weapons, set fire to the roof which caused it to collapse and smashed many of the warrior figures. What a shame!
Anyway, that's probably enough about the Warriors. I learned a lot more from our guide but I'm writing a blog not a novel. Ha!
I hope you enjoy the pictures. I've also included some other photos of the city of Xian, including a beautiful temple complex with one room depicting the life of Buddha. The walls of the room are made of jade panels showing the chronology of his life, from before birth to after life. It was stunning.
There's other pictures showing the Muslim Quarter street market, which was both fun and fascinating to walk through.
I'm slow on my posting, we're arriving Hong Kong this morning and I don't even have our prior port of Shanghai finished! Ack!!!