Today was an exciting day for us. We were able to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors. Around 221 BC, China consisted of seven (7) separate states. They had their own language, their own monetary system, and their own set of laws. Along came Qin Shihuang. He defeated the other states and proclaimed himself Emperor, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, and China became united for the first time in its history. Unfortunately, Emperor Qin only lived a short time – he died in 210 BC. However, he had begun his tomb immediately upon ascension to the throne. His tomb is obvious (although he had several mounds constructed to conceal which one was actually his) since it is a mound, readily distinguishable from the surrounding landscape. However, Qin also added a special touch to his trip into the afterlife. He had an entire army of terra cotta soldiers constructed to accompany him and to protect him in the next world. No one knew about the location of this army, since the people who worked on the project were buried alive after its completion.
This army was buried about 1.5 kilometers from his tomb where it remained hidden for almost 2,200 years. In 1974, a farmer was digging a well and discovered a terra cotta head in the well hole. When the government was told about this, they investigated and discovered the long lost treasure. What archaeologists found were four (4) pits which held the army. They excavated the first and largest pit and found thousands of life-size figures (about 6 feet tall) dressed in full battle armor and all carrying a real weapon. Pit 1 was not handles particularly well, and, thus, they are not as well preserved as subsequent pits. Pit 1 contains the infantrymen. In the 1980’s, Pit 2’s excavation was begun. This pit contains other types of soldiers, including kneeling archers, standing archers, and chariots. Pit 3 seems to contain the headquarters personnel, high ranking individuals and others not carrying weapons.
We were able to see each of the pits and also an exhibition of some special pieces. The experience was utterly amazing. We were awed by the size of the pits and contents. We couldn’t believe that each soldier has a face different from all the others (as of today there appears to be a total of about 8,000 soldiers). We could discern the difference in ranks and we especially liked the horses. What a treasure the Chinese people have here! Incidentally, all excavations have ceased for the time being, until the issue of long-term preservation issues can be solved. This tells me that the Chinese government appreciates what it has and plans to do the right thing over time.
From here we went to the Old Town area of Xi’an. Xi’an is a walled Medieval city (it dates to the 1400’s) and contains many treasures of its own. We were able to see the beautiful Bell Tower (which marks the center of the city) and the Drum Tower when we reached the restaurant we would have our dumpling lunch in. Lunch was fantastic. It consisted of 16 courses of dumplings of various kinds – there were pigeon, pork, snapper, chicken, vegetable, etc.
Next we visited a Jade Factory where we were told all about jade. Like all the factories we have seen, this place was very upscale and expensive. Finally we toured the Shaanxi (the Province which contains Xi’an) History Museum, a fascinating collection of artifacts from this region of China. We also were given a private exhibition of some of the museum’s most valuable possessions and we were actually able to handle some of them using white gloves. We certainly learned a lot today.