Day 33: Xi 'an Terracotta Warriors


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Asia » China » Shaanxi » Xi'an
March 29th 2018
Published: March 29th 2018
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Terracotta WarriorsTerracotta WarriorsTerracotta Warriors

If I had known that pictures were permitted, I would have brought my better camera! Since the emperor had faithful representations of his warriors, can we hope one day to discover the lair of his concubines as well?
Our guide “Cathy” or Kai, with driver Mr. Ma, arrived promptly at 9.00 and we set out to see the terracotta warriors, about 35km out of town. On the way, Cathy gave us fairly detailed background information, and was also able to identify the board game that Kevin had purchased as being Chinese Chess; now we need to obtain the rules!



On the way we stopped at the local equivalent of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, an opportunity to spend our money. This was a factory making replica terracotta warriors, and also lacquered goods. Very well presented and probably jolly good if one happened to be in the market for such items.



We then arrived at the terracotta warrior site. It is so famous and so perfectly familiar from TV and print publications as to need no introduction here; but it is worth saying that the whole site is presented in an excellent way, carefully designed to meet the needs of the staggering numbers of visitors. Luckily this was a day in March, only about 27 degrees and with only (perhaps?) 10,000 visitors or so in the whole day, but the heat and numbers of people later in the season are hard to imagine.



As a matter of interest, our guide (at Sophie’s suggestion) took us through the site in reverse order, so that we viewed Pit 3, then Pit 2 and finally Pit 1; this was an excellent decision and to be recommended. The visit was, of course, extraordinarily interesting; in particular, we had been unaware of the great difficulty in preserving the original colours. We were told that many of the figures are very brightly coloured at the moment of initial exposure by archaeologists, but the colour fades immediately due to exposure to the air and actually disappears within a matter of hours. This is said to be the main reason why a halt has been imposed on further excavation, so that further research may find a way of preventing this colour-loss before further work can resume.



Interesting publications were on sale but the over-enthusiasm of the staff (evidently on commission) made it impossible to buy anything; a pity. After our visit (allow 3 – 4 hours) we had an excellent lunch elsewhere and learned that Bianj Bianj noodles are a local delicacy; the word (as pronounced by Cathy) sounded suspiciously like “yum-yum”, and is apparently the most complex character in the Chinese language.

Moving on, we visited the Wild Goose Pagoda, an original structure surrounded by a large temple compound totally reconstructed in the wake of the Cultural Revolution, and all now lying within a highly-developed tourist mecca which was built over the course of the last decade upon previously open agricultural land.

All this rather filled our day; after a pre-prandial bottle of wine in Sophie’s Presidential Suite we set out for dinner and Maghnus led us to a vibrant quarter literally crammed with hundreds of restaurants and thousands of diners. Oddly enough, amidst such a forest of opportunity, we had a meal that was less than outstanding. The place was, perhaps, too busy – the staff were distracted, part of our order was duplicated, we had failed to appreciate that “Beef Strap” means “Gobbets of Pure Fat with Bristles”; a dark comedy of errors, but for three of us it was our 99th main meal so no great hardship, and Sophie made the best of it. Yum-yum!


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Glimpse of Emperor's TombGlimpse of Emperor's Tomb
Glimpse of Emperor's Tomb

Our only glimpse; the tomb is said to extend 60 metres below ground and 60 metres above as originally built, and to be protected by devilish Indiana Jones booby traps (based largely upon poisonous mercury). As yet it awaits excavation.
Bianj Bianj characterBianj Bianj character
Bianj Bianj character

Said to be the most complex character in Chinese.
Terracotta trashTerracotta trash
Terracotta trash

How extraordinary. Why would anyone spend time or money creating these freak plastic figures? Why would the authorities permit them within a major site of world significance?
A very nice sentimentA very nice sentiment
A very nice sentiment

Thankfully, it works. Xi 'an is a litter-free city.


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