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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

China: Xi'an Terracotta Warriors

Travel Date 19th April 2012.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Rather than join one of the expensive tour groups to the Terracotta Warriors site I did some research on the web on public transport options. We took a cheap cab to the Xi'an Rail Station and caught the 306 tourist bus. The fare, if I remember correctly, was 7 yuan (~$1) each way plus the cab fare. The bus took about an hour but was quite comfortable. The only difficult part was finding a cab home from the bus stop when we returned.

Inland China can get cold in winter. This fur merchant on the path between the bus stop and the entrance to the Warriors site was doing a good trade.

In 1974 some farmers near Xi'an were surprised to discover significant terracotta pieces when digging in the fields.

The archaeologists were informed and realised quickly that they had stumbled on one of the major discoveries of Chinese history. Excavations of the 'Terracotta Army' commenced quickly.  

Breakage from earthquakes, underground water, subsidence and simply time was severe, but the broken pieces were in surprisingly good condition for re-assembly. 

Technicians and craftsmen were recruited and trained to use the original techniques and skills to re-create the warriors for The Terracotta Warriors Museum, opened in 1975. 

The figures are intended to be in all respects identical to the originals. The original paints and lacquers were still in existence on some figures, but deteriorated swiftly when unearthed. Very few are painted or lacquered now and the rows of troops are a uniform pinkish-grey.

To understand the reasons for the existence of this underground army it is necessary to learn a little about Qin Shi Huang, also known as King Zheng of Qin. He came to power originally as the 13-yo heir succeeding to the throne of the smaller kingdom of Zhao, to the west of present Beijing. Xi'an is in the southern region of old Zhao. He quickly learned to be ruthless to maintain power under the tutelage of a wise but power-hungry chief minister. 

With a combination of military strategy, diplomacy, terror and organisation he expanded his kingdom dramatically over the fifty years of his reign (260–210 BC) to create the basis for his claim to be the first Emperor of China, and thus the first of the Qin dynasty. His dynasty only lasted to the second Qin Emperor, because the next after that was the first of the Han Dynasty.

Apart from ruthlessly seeking power he became obsessed with immortality and, failing that, the afterlife.  At a late stage in his reign, to prevent sedition and criticism of the Emperor he ordered the burning of all books (bound bundles of bamboo sticks with characters) apart from those in the Imperial Library. He also ordered the execution of many scholars. This was a great loss to later Chinese historians. Later, when he was seeking immortality and felt he was deceived by two alchemists he ordered over 400 scholars to be buried alive. 

When he eventually realised immortality may be beyond him, he decided to build a magnificent mausoleum. The Terracotta Army was also created to protect his soul in that mausoleum from attack in the afterlife. The mausoleum is not open to the general public, but the three pits of the Warriors are.

All types of warrior in the army are represented, from ordinary infantry, archers, cavalry, charioteers and others to the generals who are always shown taller than the others. They held their weapons; most have decayed with time but some swords survived in remarkably good condition. Every face is individual; apparently eight basic moulds were used with individual variations added in clay.

Considering the Emperor's actions while living, I am sure the real army of the time were very grateful to be represented in terracotta, rather than buried alive like the earlier scholars.

We took the bus back to the main rail station. The most difficult part of the journey home was finding an available cab at peak hour from there to the hotel, but eventually we succeeded after a long but fascinating day.

Cheers, Alan

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog of Xian terracotta warriors. Xian has a unique history with various famous places that is being a main part of tourist attraction. Xian is the most beautiful and eye catching place. Know more about Xian with Xian Tour Guide.