Suitcase and World: My warriors await!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My warriors await!

gain, Jan and I got up in time to catch breakfast and as with the previous morning, Jenny arrived to join us. Since we would be leaving for Beijing later on in the day, we had to check out of our room. Jenny had arranged for all the girls to put their bags in the Madeline and Trevor’s room and for the guys to put their bags in Robbie and Jackie’s room. After breakfast, we followed Madeline back to her room. Jan and I moved our bags to their room and then headed back downstairs to check out. Jan and I then waited for the rest of the group to show up.

Jenny had arranged for a van to take us to THE destination of the day – to see the Terracotta Army museum which is located about an hour or so drive out of town. It has been a long time dream of mine to see the warriors and I could not wait for the moment to arrive!!

We pulled into the museum parking lot and walked a short distance to the ticket counter where Jenny did her usual task of getting us our tickets. I can’t remember why, but for some reason, we couldn’t walk from the ticket counter to the museum. Instead, we had to plunk down another 5 RMB to board “golf cart” like vehicles that would take us from the ticket counter to the museum site. All 10 of us fit into one vehicle for the short ride to the museum.

We entered the museum grounds and Jenny gave us a brief orientation – we would be going inside three buildings, each one housing one excavation pit. From my pre-trip reading, I remembered that Pit 1 was the one that held the largest collection of warriors. I was absolutely thrilled when Jenny told us that we would be headed to Pit 1 first.

We entered into Pit 1. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Before me was an enormous pit that was divided into several sections.

Right in front of me was the section holding the life size terracotta warriors all lined up in Qin (“chin”) Dynasty formation. First three rows were soldiers as identified by their uniforms and hair style.

There were charioteers and their horses which were also full sized. The charioteers were recognizable by their arms and hands positioned as if they were holding reigns. There were also mid level/commanding officers positioned behind the charioteers.

The scale of what you see as you enter Pit 1 is mind blowing. There are 2000 warriors and horses have been unearthed in the pit. 20 wooden chariots were also discovered. As you take a closer look at the warriors, you start to notice the detail of their faces, hair, uniforms and even shoes. Each warrior and horse is different! I got goosebumps at the unbelievable sight before me.....amazing beyond words if you put it all the perspective that these magnificent figures were created by human hands more than 2000 years ago!!

The warriors and horses were buried in the pit – 5 metres below ground. They were placed into corridors that were paved with brick. The corridors were separated from each other by packed earth partitions. To conceal the warriors, huge wood rafters were placed across the corridors, straw placed on top and then the dirt was filled back in. I had thought the warriors were all discovered intact but only one warrior has been recovered in one piece. Most were destroyed by invading forces so shards of pottery were what the archeologists discovered as they began their excavation efforts. What a monumental task the archeologists have of reconstructing the warriors. I admire the passion and dedication that it takes to do this recovery work day after day!! Makes me appreciate what I see even more!

There were a few archeologists at work the day we visited. Uncovering the army is truly a labor of passion and dedication because it is such painstaking work to unearth the shards and restore each warrior. One section of the pit displayed warriors and horses that have been restored but which were not put back in the pit. You can imagine how difficult it must be to figure out where each pottery piece goes – like a giant jigsaw puzzle!!

In this section, we could see the figures fairly up close. It was then that I realized that several of the figures still had speckles of the paint that originally colored the figures.

It has taken archeologists 37 years to unearth and restore the 2000 warriors and horses in Pit 1. Archeologists estimate that there are 6000 warriors and horses and 50 chariots just in Pit 1 and that the entire Army, collectively buried in surrounding pits, numbers somewhere around 80,000 warriors. Unbelievable!! It will take several lifetimes to unearth and restore it all!

Next it was on to Pit 3 which held more warriors and horses. I was too busy snapping photos to hear Jenny’s explanation but I think Pit 3 held the mid level officers. The building that held Pit 3 was very dimly lit so it was a challenge to take photos.

Last but not least was Pit 2. This pit was divided into 4 sections. There were two that had only been unearthed to the wooden roof beams while one section showed the shards of pottery buried in the earth.

Pit 2 also has on display 5 warriors the most famous of which is the kneeling archer because he is the only one that has been discovered, fully intact, to date. The warriors are displayed in free standing glass cases so you can walk around them to admire the detail on each one. The horse is adorned with bronze bridle and reins.

After we saw the Pits, Jenny led us to a museum that housed some of the bronze artifacts that have been excavated. The highlight of gallery were two miniature bronze chariots – complete with charioteers and horsemen. The room was dark but even so you could see the intricate detail in the artistry and workmanship of the chariots. I couldn't take my eyes off these stunning pieces of bronze work....I had goosebumps again!!

Next it was onto a 360 degree theatre that depicted how archeologists believe the warriors were created and subsequently destroyed. I really wasn’t interested in watching so I left after about 5 minutes and escaped to hang out in the museum shop. Nothing there of interest for me either so I just stood and chatted with Jenny and Miread while we waited for the rest of the gang to come out.

We ended our visit to the Terracotta Warriors Museum with lunch in a nearby restaurant. It was then back into the van for the ride to the hotel.

Seeing the Terracotta Warriors has been a lifelong dream for me and I'm very lucky to have been able to fulfill that dream. Today was truly awesome day!