Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Return to The Terracotta Army.


How lucky I am! For most people, seeing the Terracotta Army is a once in a lifetime experience. The fact that I got to see them a second time is incredible and I have a feeling this will not be the last time for me as I know Bro wants to come to China one day and most likely, I will be the one to accompany him.  For me, today was seeing what had changed since my last visit in 2009.  Would there even be more warriors on display?

Yim and Mal had arranged, through the hotel, for a car and driver to take us to the Terracotta Army Museum. 

We hadn't hired a guide but that would happen as we arrived into what looked like a small town.  I don't remember arriving at the museum this way in 2009.

In any case, for 150 yuan, we hired a licensed English speaking guide who told us to call him John.. We then each paid 150 yuan for the entry ticket + 20 yuan for headset that we would be able to listen to John through as we visited the museum.


John led us on a walk through a small commercial complex filled with shops and restaurants.  At the end of the complex was the entry gate to the museum.  All this was definitely not here in 2009.  On that visit, we just got out of our shuttle van and we were right in front of the building housing Pit #1. 


From, the entry gate, we took a stroll down a garden path to arrive at the same starting point.  This was all new to me.


We soon arrived at a familiar view.  It had been 7 years since I last saw this building but as far as my memory could tell, it was exactly the same.   A road still leads up to the complex of museum buildings but visitors


We started our visit with the building that houses Pit #1; the largest of the pits that have been excavated to date.  In 2009, I gasped in awe when I entered the building and saw all the warriors standing, in trenches,  before me.  I had exactly the same reaction today.  It's still an incredible sight to see and while I did not have my 2009 photos to compare to, I think there were more warriors presented today than 7 years ago - the trenches somehow look more full.  Could just be my imagination.


According to archaeologists, the Terracotta Army, as it is known, is part of an elaborate mausoleum created to accompany the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di,  into the afterlife.  They are life sized warriors vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with rank and each has a different facial expression though scholars however have identified 10 basic face shapes..  The warriors, along with horses and chariots were originally lined up in Qin Dynasty military formation and that's how they are positioned in the trenches today.  Further excavations have revealed swords, arrow tips, and other weapons, many in pristine condition.

Originally, the figures were painted with bright pigments, variously colored pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white and lilac.The colorfinish and individual facial features would have given the figures a realistic feel.  However, much of the color coating has either flaked off or become greatly faded though the underlying detail is still there.


If I remember correctly, archaeologists estimate that there are more than 6,000 warriors in the pit so only a small fraction have been excavated to date.  As you visit the museum, you quickly realize that the warriors were literally uncovered as shards of clay and it's take a lot of hard work and dedication by a lot of people to restore the warriors.  It will be many lifetimes before the army will be fully restored, if that is at all possible.  In 2009, I only took a few photos so I decided to make up for it and took many more today. :-)







John pointed out a row of warriors standing facing east.  They are positioned facing that direction to provide the emperor protection from attackers who lived in the kingdoms he had conquered that lay east of his own.



In the photo below, there's a single warrior with a square shaped head piece that identifies him as a commander.




John also pointed out the remains of pillars that were used to support the crossbeams that I presumed held up the roof that originally covered the army.



In some areas of the trenches, you could see how the warriors laid in the rubble.  If I remember correctly, the warriors were destroyed by invading forces centuries ago.  What an incredible effort it must be for archaeologists to painstakingly uncover the shards and rebuild each warrior and horse.


In one trench, you can see the remains of the wheel of a chariot.


When I was here in 2009, there was not a single worker in sight.  Today, they were hard at work in the section of the pit that is being excavated.




If I remember correctly, the back end of the pit is where rebuilt warriors are set out before being placed in correct position in the trenches.





Next it was on to the second building which housed Pit #2, a much smaller pit that #1.





Again, square shaped headpieces identified the army's commanders.



Unlike Pit #1, the trenches here were not in parallel rows and there were more warriors and horses in an unrestored state.  It really gives you a good sense of the enormous task of the archaeologists to restore the army.

The highlight of this building are several warriors presented in display cases so you can really get up close and see the incredible detail in each.  Sadly, the lighting in the room is not favorable for taking nice photos.

The first one is THE only warrior to have been discovered fully intact.  He's the kneeling archer.


Walking around to his back, you can still see the remains of the paint decorating his shielded overlay.


But you had to look down at the sole of his shoe to see the most incredible detail. 



From one warrior to the next, it was different facial features and dress.  Makes you wonder how long it took to create this army in the first place.  Unfortunately, either John did not take us or it no longer exists but when I was here in 2009, I got to see a short video on how archaeologists think the Army was originally created - explaining how the kilns were built and used to fire these life size creations.  Considering that the Terracotta Army dates back to the 2nd century BC, the ingenuity and technical skills of the Chinese at  that time was remarkable!



This hefty looking warrior is a high ranking officer, a superior to the guy above.




One of the warriors stands with a horse.  You can see how his hand was positioned to grip on to the reins.


The detail of the horse itself is stunning.  I swear you can see the muscular structure of the animal in the chest and legs!



The last warrior is standing in a pose unlike the others but the pigments, albeit faded, used to color his uniform are still evident.


In this building, you can also see some of the weaponry that has been recovered from the site.


The weapon I would describe as a pick axe is even inscribed with lettering dating back 2,200 years!  Incredibly, the Chinese script has not changed since it was invented more than 3,000 years ago during the Shang Dynasty so someone of today's generation can actually read the characters presuming they can read traditional characters and not just the simplified ones!


Building #3 houses more priceless treasures which are housed in a small, dark room below ground level.



They are large scale bronze chariots and hiorses that were unearthed in December 1980,  a short distance from where the Terracotta Army was discovered.  They were tagged Chariot No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. Both chariots were discovered encased in a wooden box that had been buried 8 meters down in a trench.

The chariots are half size scale-models of real chariots and horses, faithfully copied down to the last detail, complete with horses and people and are constructed with bronze and cast bullion.  Scholars believe that the chariots were to serve as the vehicles for the emperor's inspection tours in his afterlife. The colorful square carriages are decorated with geometric and cloud patterns.

If you didn't admire the Chinese for being able to cast an entire army of life sized warriors in clay then marvel at their bronze casting skills.  Remember, these were created 2,200 years ago!

Surprisingly, the photos I took of the chariots back in 2009, especially of Chariot No.1 were much better than the ones I took today though they were also a bit blurry!

Chariot No. 1.

Chariot No. 2.

It's amazing how quickly time flies when you are engrossed in something.  We spent about 2 hours visiting the 3 buildings and as I said, we didn't even get to see the video which I think was useful in putting everything into perspective.  If I remember correctly, we saw the theatre was located inside the museum's gift shop and although John did take us to the gift shop, we never saw the video.  In hindsight, I should've have mentioned it.  Next visit :-)

We said our goodbye's and thank-you's to John in the complex of shops and restaurants.  The gals and I decided to grab our lunch here so we just picked a restaurant.  I wanted to have biang biang mian before leaving Xi'an so the moment I saw the characters on a display placard that was the restaurant for me.  Who doesn't like hand pulled noodles?


While the girls debated what they wanted, I just looked at the picture menu and picked the bowl I wanted and pointed it to the waitress.  Done.


Otherwise, you're stuck looking at the paper menu which is impossible to decipher thanks to words being lost in translation.  I have come to realize that the first item on every menu is the one that is either the most popular one or the most iconic one so if I had to pick from this, I would go with *Spiced noodles with beef*.


On every table you will find a bowl of chili sauce, a dispenser of black vinegar and cloves of raw garlic.  Yes, raw garlic.  The Chinese are great believers in the health benefits of raw garlic.  On the dining table, it's served for its digestive aid qualities.  Now you know.


My bowl of biang biang mian was small and not so cheap by Chinese lunch standards.  What to expect when you are eating at a popular tourist attraction?  In any case, it was enough food for me so I can't complain.  Noodles were okay.


On the way back to meet up with our driver, we got accosted with a group of women selling fruits.  I immediately saw the persimmons that both Yim and I enjoyed.  We decided to get more.  I asked Yim to pick and she, of course, had to pick the vendor that was standing far back in the bunch of women - the one that we would come to refer to as the *Lady in Pink*.  I am certain her persimmons were no better than the women who were shoving their baskets in  my face but for the love of my dear cousin, I pointed to her.  From the shouting all around me, I am certain I incurred the wrath of all the other women.  I jokingly cursed Yim and we had a good laugh over the incident. 


After we made our purchase and the women stopped cursing at us....I'm sure they were cursing, they immediately turned their attention to the next customer.


Back with our driver, we headed to our next destination, Hanyanling, a set of tombs that is a bit off the typical Xi'an tourist path!