Monday, December 19, 2005


China Flashback: The Terracotta Warriors

One word: Cool!

Yesterday I tried to paint you a picture of the ancient Chinese capitol of Xi'an. Of course the primary reason tourists like me head to Xi'an is to see the the Terracotta Warriors.

The Terracotta army are what Chinese archeologist believe is just a small part of a massive tomb complex for China's first emperor Qui Shi Huang. Roughly 2,000 years old, this army of some 8,000 clay warriors stands guard over the emperor's tomb (which is located some 10 miles away). Each figure is unique and are slightly larger than life. (My guide told me the figures are about 6 ft tall, which would be unlikely some 2,000 years ago...but what great propaganda!). Anyway, the warriors lay buried in special chambers, lost to history until they were found by farmers digging a well in 1974.

More details here.

The museum complex is about a 40 minute ride outside of Xi'an. On the ride to the museum, my guide "Phoenix" told me that more than 7 million folks live in the city of Xi'an. Stunning, a city with the population of LA that most American's probably have never heard of. (By the way there are more than 40 cities with > 1 million residents in China)...Anyway, when you arrive at the museum you have to navigate an array of junky tourist stalls before you make your way to the museum. When you arrive there are three large buildings to peruse. They house pit 1 (picture above), Pit 2 (which is largely unexcavated) and Pit 3 (Generals).

Pit one is by far the most impressive and generally what we most often see pictures of in discussions of the warriors. Pit 2 is largely unexcavated but you can get a good idea of how the warriors were burred so long ago under heavy beams. It is here they found the only intact warrior - a kneeling archer. Pit 3 is significantly smaller and is mostly generals.

Pretty impressive stuff considering it was constructed more than 2,000 years ago. It's reported that the emperor's tomb (currently burred under a massive hill) contains a scale model of the entire country. With model buildings made of gold and seas filled with mercury. No plans to excavate that until scientists can work out a way to preserve any relics inside which would disintegrate on contact with the air.

The warriors are truly wondrous. But part of me kept thinking this.

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