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Terracotta Warriors, Banpo Village and defying death

Day 6 - Xi'An

sunny 27 °C

We started the day with breakfast as the locals do, cabbage and meatballs from a huge cauldron, likely bubbling away for years, for $2, delicious.
When I was in China 20 years ago I missed out on going to the Terracotta Warriors and vowed to come back so I was really looking forward to this. The 10 seater minivan firstly took us to a ceramics factory where replica warriors are being made in the traditional way with the same clay (a unique combination of clay from one spot plus rice and milk).
We watched them making figures. It was cool to see the process, including the air drying figures before firing in the kiln in over 1000 degrees.
The guide gave\ us great explanations about the history of making the Terracotta Warriors. This factory was special as we were able to walk into a kiln full of life size warriors to show how they were made. Jen went nuts with taking photos as the light made the warriors almost seem alive. The photos that Jen took are some of the best she has done so far on the trip.
Lots to buy but we knew this was the first week and also I had bought a number of Chinese trinkets from back 1995 including 2 * 30cm high statues that I do treasure. Some beautiful vases were on display that would go perfectly in our home but they would not last long in our backpacks. A shame though, so much beautiful stuff.
The original warriors were actually painted with vibrant colours but once exposed to the air the paint very quickly fades away. This is why they are not willing to excavate more but leave the remaining buried. Technology does not know how to preserve them so the exposed ones all end up being this stone and bronze colour. Hopefully technology will catch up soon.
During the drive, our guide told us about an emperor who fell in love with the widow of his 27th son and married her. Whilst many thought she was just a mistress, many believed it was true love. Unfortunately, their love of dance and merriment, enamoured of each other, distracted the Emperor from affairs of state and brought about his downfall.
On to the Terracotta Warriors, now added as the 8th wonder of the ancient world. It is a massive complex - China doesn't do anything on a small scale. We entered the courtyard and straight away you get a feeling of the magnitude of this place. The warriors are in three massive buildings enclosing the Pits - Pit 1, 2 and 3. We got given the history of the warriors so I will try and explain some of the key points.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of the Chin Dynasty back in 250 BC. He believed in the afterlife similar to the Egyptians and so created an army to be buried with him after he dies. He died in 210 BC and was buried with some 8000 warriors . The figures date back to the late third century BC and was discovered in 1974 by a local farmer digging for a well during a drought. The figures vary in height according to their roles with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses and about 1000 have been uncovered and each one is unique. Their clothing and hair style distinguishes their rank and position in the burial site. Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor to unify the country but was also very brutal to the people. It is believed he became rather maniacal, taking lots of powerful "medicines" to stay healthy, but ultimately the doses killed him. His burial place is nearby which is basically a hill that has not been excavated but all records uncovered indicate he was buried in the area. Legends tell of rivers of quicksilver (mercury) as well as lethal booby traps so excavating would be dangerous. In addition, if the Chinese were to uncover the area, they would struggle to build structures to cover the area to protect it.

We entered Pit 1 and it was one of those moments that your jaw drops, you are breathless and you stand there trying to grasp the scene. The building is the 230m long and 100m wide (about the size of the MCG) and full of warriors in the pits that had been excavated and painstakingly pieced back together. There are areas where they are digging and hundreds of pieces lay scattered ready to be pieced back together. There are pits full of broken limbs, horses and heads. Most of the warriors in pit 1 are infantry, in army formation ready, to defend the generals and Emperor.
Pit 2 is half the size of pit 1 but with less fully recovered pieces and with numerous open excavations of the broken pieces. Jen and I could not comprehend how they find the pieces and then eventually match them to rebuild each statue.
Also in this building are the different type of warriors in glass cabinets in their full glory perfectly restored so you can get up close.
Pit 3 is half the size again but it is the war room where the generals and senior military would plan the battles.
According to records at the end of the Qin dynasty Xiang Yu set fire to the pit which caused the pit to collapse and many terracotta warriors and horses were destroyed. The passage of time then covered the entire area and millennia later, 5 metres of top soil enclosed the area until a farmer discovered them.
The whole site, the way the warriors are presented , information and the atmosphere was exceptional. I have been to some special historical sites, Tiotihuacan, Palenque and Chitcha Iza in Mexico, Ephasis in Turkey, Tikal in Guatemala, Pula in Croatia and now Xi An is right up there as one of the best things I have seen. If you go to China....it is a must see!

Just to wrap the day up we stopped in to Banpo Neolithic Village.
The village was inhabited about 4500 BC to 3750 BC. The museum has the remains of 45 houses, 2 stables and about 200 graves. This village was already doing farming, making weapons, building houses. It was a matriarchal society and because there was no marriage system it was the women who were in charge and chose which man to have a child with.

The drive back was at times death defying as it was during Friday night peak hour traffic so we did some safety observations: number of near misses = 455, people riding electric bikes with no helmet = everyone, people driving and talking on the phone = 10000 and still counting, people texting while walking = 852. Good news is we saw no crashes and everyone got through it!.

After a full on day we went in search of dinner. Again, we weren't disappointed.
After a short wait...
...we were very happy!
Overall a great site seeing day, full to the brim of amazing scenes.

Posted by tszeitli 15:31 Archived in China Tagged terracotta warriors emperor dynasty Comments (5)

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