XI'AN - Terracotta Warriors

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Asia » China
February 21st 2011
Published: February 23rd 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Saturday 12th February

Shortly after we left the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda we find ourselves heading for the Terracotta Army Mausoleum site in the Lintong District.
Its a ten Minute walk through the Mausoleum grounds and after we've passed through two security checks we arrive at the Mausoleum shop. One of the farmers that found the site was actually there and signing books. He found the first pit by accident in 1974 while digging for water and is a bit of a local hero. Apparently he didn't receive a reward for finding the hidden army so he charge's people for his signature on the official books that they sell here.

Sometimes known as the eighth wonder of the world, the terracotta warriors were commissioned by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di. When Qin Shi Huang Di came to power he unified China and kick-started a long line of Chinese emperors. So far so good, but the reputation of the first emperor went rapidly downhill. He spent much of his time trying to track down an elixir that would guarentee his immortality (quaffing something that might or might not have been pure mercury, but which seemed to send him a little loopy) and, as a back-up plan, building a life-size army, to protect him in the afterlife. Definitely a screw loose there somewhere.
Murdering his gang of workers after the job didn't endear him to the population either, and his plan backfired when many of the terracotta warriors were smashed to pieces immediately after his death. The empire crumbled just a few short years after Shi Huang's passing in 221 BC.
Theres over 28 pits around the area surrounding his tomb and we are going to visit the three Pits that hold the Terracotta armies and which are under cover of the Mausoleum. All the other pits contained artifacts such as weapons, chariots, swords, jade, gold and a host of other objects which are mostly on display in the museum building's here.

Its time to to enter the 1st pit and we are getting excited as its a big build up as you enter the hanger like structure as theres a flight of stairs followed by a short walk towards the pit . The lights shine brightly and the temperature drops as we approach the edge of the pit and there they were. The Terracotta Army!
Wow, we didnt expect it to be this large. The central part of Pit 1 is the main force of army which has 36 columns 178 m long. Also within this pit is 50 battle chariots, horses and thousands of infantries which stand in a good order according to the military formation. Some warriors wear robes, some wear armors according to their rank or army services.
We can see where the wooden roofs had been placed to cover the Army in their trenches and we learn that the roofs were then covered with earth and covered up to be forgotten about for nearly 2000 years.
Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.

The young emperor began the construction for his tomb when he was still alive in 215BC. A total of 720 thousands men, which occupied 3.6 percent of the total population in Qin Dynasty, spent 38 years to construct the project but still not finished until the dead of the Emperor. The stones for building the mausoleum were carried without any mechanical appliances from some mountains which are about 97 miles away from the tomb, and the materials for molding the terracotta warriors and horses are the “yellow earth” easily obtained nearby the mausoleum.

The Emperor's tomb attracts many thousands of tourists every year, but has not yet been explored – and perhaps may never be. If legend about what’s inside is true – and, incredibly, all evidence to date suggests it is – then the First Emperor’s mausoleum contains a wealth of treasures and adornments perhaps greater than any other in ancient history. Rumour has it that the tomb is encased in rivers of liquid mercury and booby traps. The tomb site is nearly a mile from here so instead of going there we looked at photos of it. Its just a Pyramid shaped grassy hill, nothing more.

We carried on walking down one side of Pit 1 taking on board all the information as we went and its really amazing to see all the different types of soldiers lining the columns.
At the far end of the hanger there's rebuilt warriors standing in formation with horses beside them which have been all been rebuilt using different parts found in this pit. Theres only one original complete warrior and he's on display in Pit 2.

We exit pit one and enter into the much smaller Pit 3. Figurines in Pit 3 are standing face to face with a passageway between them. Obviously, they are the guards of the command post and these strong guards all wear heavy armors with vivid facial expressions. There were only 64 Figures of a higher rank or commanders found in this pit. They must have had more precious and valuable treasures buried with them as this tomb was found totally ransacked by tomb raiders. Pit 3 was discovered in 1976, two years after pit one.

We then headed off towards Pit 2 which is quite large compared to pit 3 but no where as big as Pit 1. Its here that we see what the pits looked like before being excavated as Pit 2 has hardly been touched. Not much to see but it give you an idea of the sheer scale of excavation that must went into the first pit.

There are some bits that have been excavated here but the nice thing about this pit is that it has some nice displays on show. For example, out of the couple of thousand warriors that were excavated, only one warrior was found completely intact and in one piece. He's on show in a glass cabinet here and he is something to look at! He's a kneeling Archer, one of hundreds found in this pit.
In the next display is an immaculate statue of an important General with his sword with fine detailed armour and clothing. If you look closely you can see the effort thats gone into detailing the soles of the shoes, laces and also the locks of hair.
The last display box contained some kind of infantryman dressed in an unarmored battle robe. He was unearthed from the exterior of the archer formation in Pit 2. The pose of both hands shows that this figure was ready to shoot. Altogether 172 standing archers were found in this pit along with the main force in the middle which comprised of 160 kneeling or squatting archers.

We have one more visit within the Mausoleum grounds and its and the eagerly awaited Bronze chariots display building. Firstly we stopped for lunch in the museum which wasn't great and was vastly overpriced.
We head out into the courtyard and headed towards the impressive building that houses the Bronze Chariots.

Two large scale-models of bronze chariots were unearthed in 1980 about 20 metres east of Emperor Qin Shihuang's mausoleum. They were tagged Chariot No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. These Bronze Chariots and Horses are the biggest items of bronze ware ever found in the world.
They were encased in large wooden coffins for over two thousand years without any corrosion although they were crushed under the weight of topsoil. When the artifact was first found, it was in thousands of broken pieces. It took five years to restore both the chariots together and now they are on display here in this purposely built Building.

They are half size scale-models of real chariots, faithfully copied down to every last detail and complete with horses and rider. No. 1 bronze chariot was the leading chariot of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. 2.25 m long and 1 m tall.
No. 2 was the seat of Emperor Qin Shi Huang with 3.17 m long and 1 m tall. The technology and design quality is so high that its almost close to the technology used today.

We walked around the dark room looking at these rare bronze items and we're mesmerized by the work that must have gone into making these chariots over 2000 years ago.
The two chariots are made up more than 7,000 pieces and both of them are decorated with nearly 4,000 pieces of bullion, which must've made the bronze chariots brilliant, glorious and honorable. They were supposed to serve as the vehicle for the emperor's inspection tours in his afterlife. The chariots are decorated with geometric and cloud patterns which can just about be seen on some parts.

We've spent a good bit of time in this building as there's some other bronze artifacts on display around the walls of the Chariot room which gives us an insight into how highly skilled the makers must have been back in that era.

Well thats us finished our tour around the Terracotta Mausoleum so we took the long walk back to our waiting car which sped us off back to the hotel. We've got a half day of touring the Xian City Wall and the Xian National Museum tomorrow so still plenty to do in Xian before we fly off to Shanghia in the evening.

Additional photos below
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23rd February 2011

Has man changed?
Hardly, in many ways he is as naive today as 2000 years ago, still accepting dictators, and false promises, and worshipping equally false Gods and governments, trusting strangers with our money and calling them banks, allowing them , the banks to rob us and then rewarding them for so doing. We have our modern terracotta army our men with feet of clay, but we now call them M.P's and Ministers. Have a nice day! and thanks for a lovely blog. F&S

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