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Published: November 10th 2006
A great travel-moment
7,000 terracotta warriors are ready to defend their emperor in the "after-life".
Few sight in the world are more awe-inspiring than seeing over 7,ooo warriors standing in battle positions, pretending to defend their emperor in his "world-beyond". Perhaps he anticipated, that in his next life, he would forever be haunted by the millions of souls, whom he once offered and ferried to the underworld with his brutality.
Though Qin Shihuang became king at the age of 13, his power was not consolidated until the age of 32, when for the first time China was united into a single country. At his moment of death, at the age of only 50, this cunning and ruthless "First Emperor of China", left an enigmatic gift to world, that will forever bring visitors to Xi'an, in Western China, to marvel and ponder at what a man he must have been.
Under construction 260 years before the birth of Christ, only a fraction of his haunting "underground" palace has been excavated since it was first discovered by a peasant in 1974. The world of Archeology has never been the same since.
What is still to be un-earthed from this mysterious "under-world" can only be speculated from the accounts of ancient Chinese historians:
An army of stone
Standing to wait the emperors command, these 7,000 terracotta soldiers have not moved for 2,250 years. I'm very grateful for the permission to bring my camera into the one of China's greatest treasures.
underground-tomb covers some 35 sq.miles and is best described as an underground palace with stables and an inner and outer city. The effort to build his last resting-place, required over 700,000 conscripts and slave laborers. It holds the numerous treasures within, rivers of mercury, constellations of pearls and gems embedded into the ceiling, plus an assortment of valuables the emperor would require in his afterlife, including "life" soldiers, "life" concubines and "life" servants, - plus all the "living" artisans, who worked on the mausoleum, lest they reveal its secrets."--
Today, Qin Shihuang's "unopened" vault, one mile from the Terracotta Warriors, and 20 miles from the Xi'an's city center still guards its securely hidden mysteries. A huge, grassy, underground bubble, surrounded by trees, betrays the location, as it seems to strain from bursting open and exploding, and reveal the content of its still deepest secrets. The marvels hidden within may remain a mystery for another 200 years, when technology might make it possible to open the vault without doing harm to the content.
The Terracotta Warriors are therefore only the rustic part of this Qin Emperor's tomb complex, and if they are an indication of what still awaits us,
It pays to be friendly
We were given permission to take these many photos of the warriors, which under normal circumstances is forbidden.
future generations will continue to flock and marvel at its wonders.
In a pit of about 36,000 square feet and 15 feet deep, local peasants discovered in 1974 the first remnants of some 7,000 terracotta infantry soldiers, archers, cavalrymen and chariots arranged in battle formation, ready to defend their emperor's (Qin Shihuang) immortal soul. Each soldier is some 5 feet 7 inches tall, the high ranking soldiers taller, and are sculptured and hand formed from terracotta clay. Each part of the hollow body was made separately, while the trunk, limbs and hands were mass-produced.
Every head was individually constructed, and the face of each warrior is distinct, having individually-unique facial expressions, hairstyles and clothing. They were once painted with black armor, colorful red scarves and green pants, though the colors have long faded. As warriors, they each held weapons, bronze swords, spears, axes - which were still sharp when discovered, and longbows, and crossbows.
Numerous new pits are being excavated, each revealing new treasures and wonders, but only three pits have been opened for display, of which pit #1 is the largest and contains some 7,000 warriors with war chariots and horses.
Protected from the elements
The week in Xi
Didy and Angel gave up much of their personal time, to help visit all that Xian has to offer. They have become my friends, and little "Angel" has captured my heart with her wit, her intelligence, her English, and her charm.
in what looks like an airplane hangar, it is now possible to view this incredible sight from elevated walk-ways. The warriors are lined in 38 trenches, facing eastward to the emperor's tomb, still waiting his command after some 2,250 years.
Numerous pits are still being excavated and in many, warriors lay toppled as if they fell in combat. Shattered and headless statues give the eerie sense of viewing the carnage of an ancient battlefield. As in a jiggsaw puzzle, archeologists continue to piece together the broken remains of those warriors, who "almost" lost their battle against time.
While the first pit contains mostly foot-soldiers, the second pit contains the mobile force of the army with chariots, cavalry, and archers.
The third pit is the command center for this "ghostly army", with 68 statues of officers around a war chariot. The clothing of the officers differ from common soldiers, the officers wear fine robes and are much taller.
Two bronze chariots unearthed near the base of the emperor's tomb are constructed in half size with detailed drivers and horses, that have decorated plumes and gold and silver inlaid harnesses. The chariots feature working parts such as windows
We found, that a tour-guide is of little consequence here.
Arthur, Angel, Didy, and English guide on the way to view history.
that open and close and turning handles.
The emperor's tomb complex is a massive memorial to a man, whom history remembers as both brilliant and brutal. Most parts of his rich tomb remain unexplored, because current archeological technology isn't advanced enough to preserve the priceless artifacts held within.
The first Qin emperor's influence far out- lived his short dynasty. To consolidate his power, he ordered construction projects of astonishing size and grandeur, including these Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall. Within his newly unified kingdom of China, he set to work standardizing weights and measurements, he formed one national currency
using standard, round, copper coins, with square holes in the center, while standardizing the exact form of the Chinese written-characters.
Roads were build to link his empire and the many sections of the Great Wall were connected and extended. 500,000 laborers, most of whom were prisoners of war, died from exhaustion and starvation in "the wall's" construction, giving additonal credence to his ruthlessness. History also remembers him as having buried alive some 500 Confucian scholars who criticized his policies.
The Terracotta Warriors were discovered by accident while digging a well, and excavations have been going on
housing an empire's reliques
Largest open air museum in China is in Xi'an
for over 30 years, yet the underground palace, the central part of the mausoleum remains a mystery. It will take hundreds of years to unearth it all, and no one is quite sure what they'll find, since the artisans and craftsmen who built it were rumored to have been entombed inside, to ensure they never revealed the emperor's secrets.
****(I wish to thank the guards for permitting us to take photos, where usually none are permitted. It allows me to share these inspiring images in greater quantity and so much greater detail. Words alone could never present, the emotions a visitor to this historical place is about to encounter.)****
***Enlarging each image will provide you greater appreciation for this un-imaginable monument from the past, and it will offer greater facial and artistic details. The halls of each pit are very dark, and only muted light is focused on the excavations and trenches with stone soldieres and stone horses. Both the quantity and the quality of this life-size army of ghosts continuously reminds, that over 700,000 conscripts and artisans spend their life-time, and then gave their lifes feeding both, the vanity and fear, of one man's power, abused
**At the moment, it is more difficult to present frequent entries into the travel-blog. The amount of time required to complete preparations and corrections and interviews with my 370 students make the entries slower, and there are still so many hundreds of photos to share. The comments you offer really help make the time here calmer for me, and your encouragements are always appreciated. I miss everyone very much, and hope that your life's journey is also on an adventure.
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