Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Other Terracotta Figures in Xi'an.


My favorite travel experience is when I come across something totally expected that was worth the discovery. Such was the case with the Hanyangling Mausoleum. The mausolem complex was constructed around the tombs of Liu Qi, a notable emperor of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24AD), and his empress, Empress Wang.

The mausoleum complex was built in the year 153 AD and covers an area of 20 square kilometers (4,942 acres). The complex comprises of the emperor's tomb, the empress's tomb, the south and north burial pits, and the criminals' cemetery and a museum displaying archaeological finds unearthed from the tombs and burial pits.

From the Terracotta Army Museum, we had to drive past Xi'an and continue a short distance out of town to arrive at Hanyangling Mausoleum.

Our driver dropped us off and pointed us to the direction of the ticket counter.  Looking around the complex, there was maybe a handful of tourists around.....including us!  It made me wonder if this place was worth coming to.  In hindsight, I think the place was empty because it's a bit off the beaten tourist path and so not many people come here.  Yes, it's worth visiting.

While there was a sign indicating that guides were available, we opted to just explore the place on our own.

The Emperor's mausoleum is surrounded by 86 outer burial pits, 21 of which are accesible to visitors. The pits display more than 50.000 miniature terracotta figures reflecting the daily life of the Han emperor's court, including eunuchs, servants, tools and domesticated animals.   We started our visit with the oddly named, *Protection Hall of  Burial Pit*, a very modern underground museum that was built in 2006.



We stepped inside the museum and noticed an exhibition hall on the floor below us.   We just followed the path we were already on which led us straight to the pits.


The museum was built around 10 of the 86 pits that surround the emperor's tomb.  To allow visitors to see the contents of the pits yet protect the priceless contents, there are suspended glass corridors that allow you to walk over the tombs so you can see the contents.


The entire space was very dimly lit so it was difficult to take photos.  Pretty much every image I shot came out blurry.

We could look to the left and to the right as well as below our feet to see the pits.  Mal was a bit worried at first about walking across the glass walkway.  She was worried about being embarrassed if she broke through the glass and fell through.  She is on the heavy side but both Yim and I reassured her that the glass would more than hold her.  She was a bit cautious at first but then calmed down.


Unlike the Qin Dynasty Terracotta Warriors and horses which are all life sized, the Han Dynasty figures are far smaller and they vary from the warrior to civilian, male and  female.  The figures were all armless and were anatomically correct though not necessarily proportionally correct.  The arms were originally constructed of wood and had decayed over the centuries which explains why not a single figure had any limbs.




Unlike the Terracotta Warrior Army where only clay horses were unearthed, the pits here also contained domesticated animals like cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.  I guess they wanted to make sure the Emperor was well fed in his afterlife :-)




Next to one of the pits was a model display of how archaeologists believe the artifacts that they have recovered would have been used during the Emperor's reign.


The armless figures were strewn about the pit.  I thought they looked like dolls belonging to a young girl with a macabre side to her personality - she likes to strip her dolls naked and dismember them!




From the burial pits, we ended up in the small exhibition hall where we were able to see a few of the artifacts recovered from the pits as well as a mockup of how the figures were originally dressed. 



Seeing the one figure dressed up in a robe finally made the odd looking, armless man look like a real person.


Unearthed burial objects include naked pottery figurines, chariots and horses, weapons, articles of everyday use and a large number of pottery animals.

From the Preservation Hall of Burial Pit, we walked over to the South Gate Tower which, from the outside, looks neither like a gate or a tower. 


Originally, there was a wall surrounding the Emperor's mausoleum.  The South Gate Tower is the south gate entrance through the wall.  The current structure was constructed to protect a section of the original rammed earth gate.  I have to admit, looking at the length of wall, it was hard to envision a gate which I always think of as a whole in a wall.  I couldn't discern where the break in the wall was. 




From the South Gate Tower, we made our way to the Archaeological Exhibition Hall aka the Museum.  It was a small museum and although I'm not much of a museum goer, I actually enjoyed it.


Looking at the map, it seemed like it was going to be a long walk to the museum so we asked the driver if he could take us there.  Considering that we had awoken him from his peaceful nap, he was in no mood to take us so I think he gave us some lame excuse.  Thankfully, it wasn't a long distance and it turned out to be a nice walk.


More than 3,000 different items including pottery figures, weapons and utensils were recovered from the tombs and burial pits and a good number of the items are on display inside the museum.

Chinese roof tiles.


There were plenty of small scale pottery farm animals. Of course, I am drawn to the pig being born in the Year of the Pig :-)







I fell in love with this quirky looking face with its exaggerated almond shaped eyes and big cheeks.  From the bun on the back of the head, I think it's suppose to be a woman.



Obviously, the figures are way out of proportion as the cows are much too large in comparison!  They are incredibly life like though.




Of all the artifacts displayed in the museum, it was the clay animals that captured my heart and brought a smile to my face.

I think this little piece is suppose to be a pig.

I just loved this pair of dogs and chickens. Isn't the curled tail on the one dog just charming?  And the chickens. 
Well, I love chickens and that pair would look really good displayed in my house :-)

An entire flock of goats and sheep.  Or maybe they're all just goats.  Sometimes I can't tell the difference between the two.

The cows, sans horns which I presume were also crafted of wood.

Of course, you can't have an army without horses and there were a lot of horses here. It's amazing how well these clay animals have survived the centuries in as good shape as they are.


An army has to carry water and cook so here are the obligatory clay pots.


But not everything unearthed from the pits and tombs were made of clay.  Metal pots, mainly for cooking, were also uncovered.


This pot sits atop a clay stove.


It was only early afternoon when we were done with our visit to Hanyangling but I was ready to head back to the hotel and call it a day.  Neither Yim nor Mal wanted to do any more sightseeing either so we made our way back to the city.   From Hanyangling, it's only about a 20 km drive back to Xi'an so it didn't take long for us to get back.   There, we had to pay our driver for his services. 

One of those two cars is ours.  It's not exactly a crowded parking lot :-)

I have a few hours to kill before I head out to dinner with the gals so I'm just going to relax.  I'm on vacation - no need to rush my time :-)