One hell of a demanding teenager!

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
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Trip End Jun 18, 2011


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Flag of China  , Shaanxi,
Sunday, June 26, 2011

So after our little trip out to see the Tombs of Emperor Jingdi, today it was time for us to visit the big one…we were off to The Terracotta Warriors. The story behind these statues is pretty amazing in itself; some farmers were digging a well in the countryside when they found a couple of shards of pottery. Little did they know that underneath their feet was a huge vault containing thousands of life-sized warrior statues. Once the surrounding area was excavated the archeologists found 3 main vaults, as well as dozens of smaller pits, containing over 8000 Terracotta Warriors and thousands of clay animals, pieces of jewellery, bronze statues and pottery. All these things were buried in the ground hundreds of years ago, 210 BC to be exact, at the order of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Now I think it would be fair to say that Emperor Qin Shi was a pretty demanding kind of guy; when he was 13 he ordered that a huge army of terracotta soldiers be made and placed around his burial tomb, so that he would have as strong a military force in the afterlife as he'd had during his reign as Emperor. It took over 700,000 workers an entire lifetime to fulfil his wishes, mostly because he ordered that no two warriors could look alike… they had to all look different (sounds like a 13 year old on a bit a power-trip if you ask me!). Each warrior had to be handmade with an individually crafted face and dressed in clothes according to its rank; yes I know it sounds crazy but the statues had ranks, clothes and weapons just like a real army. There was an infantry, horses and carriages, archers, generals, swordsmen…all made out of terracotta and placed in the three main vaults in battle formation. Once the Emperor died and had been laid to rest in his tomb, the last of the statues were taken into the vaults (in all their military finery and laden with real swords, arrows and knifes) and the entrances to the vaults were sealed from the outside. It was thought that this army of terracotta soldiers would protect the Emperor and help him to establish a new empire in the afterlife.  

Nowadays the site of the vaults is overrun with thousands of tourists everyday. It seems funny to me that such a huge underground treasure as this was not already known about; I’m guessing that no-one kept a record of them being there, which is even more bizarre when you learn that they are in such close proximity to the final resting place of one of China’s most important historical figures, the first ever emperor of China. Either way the whole place has now been turned into a huge tourist attraction and since our arrival in Xian our hostel has been hasseling us about signing up to their day tour of the site. However we learnt that you can catch a local bus to the Warriors at a fraction of the price and, always thinking of the pennies, we opted for this instead. It was really easy to find our way there despite the fact that loads of touts were trying to trick us onto going on their bus, which no doubt takes you to their auntie’s silk factory or brother’s jewelery warehouse. It took about an hour to get to the entrance of the site and when we finally arrived the sun was shining and the temperature was well over 34 degrees. There were tons of people trying to hire themselves out for the day as guides but we had our trusty guidebook so we didn’t need any help fining our way.

Once inside the compound we decided to follow the advice of our book and visit the vaults in reverse order; so headed off to the smallest one, which is pit 3. Even though this is the smallest vault it is actually the houses the most high-ranking statues. Inside it was amazing to get our first view of the warriors; there were about 30 unbroken statues in this pit, although there were countless broken warriors and bits of broken pottery all over the floor. The attention to detail on the statues is astounding! Because each warrior has a different face it is really difficult not to believe that you are looking at real people; each statue has a different hair style or shaped nose and you can see that every warrior has even had the tread of their shoes handcrafted and carved out. When you are peering into their faces you can’t help but imagine them blinking. Every now and then, in and among all the debris and broken pottery on the floor, we would see a perfectly formed hand or ear sitting there and we would wonder what had happened to the rest of the warrior they belonged to. Pit 2 was a lot bigger than pit 3 although most of it was still being excavated so there wasn’t much to see in there, although there was a small exhibition showing some of the best preserved warriors they had found. When the statues had originally been locked away in their vaults not only where they dressed in the correct clothing for their rank, but they had also been painted and their individual facial features had been coloured depending on their race. We could still see some flecks of paint on the statues at the exhibition.

We finally moved to Pit 1 and we were so glad to have saved this one for last; it was huge! A massive aircraft hanger has been built over the top of the pit and inside were hundreds of unbroken warriors. Row after row of them were all lined up ready to go to battle. This pit was certainly the most impressive! There were warriors who were missing their terracotta horses and carriages, warriors with their hands grasping invisible swords, kneeling archers getting ready to shot arrows. It was an awe inspiring sight. And the whole time we were there we just couldn’t stop thinking 'it took 700,000 men an entire lifetime to make all this… just because a 13 year old Emperor told them to’.  What an amazing world we live in! Later we visited the museum and souvenir shop and we were very tempted to buy a set of mini Terracotta Warriors to take home with us as a memento; however they cost 50 so we thought better of it. Yet when it came time for us to leave and get the bus back to Xian we came up against a tidal wave of touts selling souvenirs at the gate; one guy had a set of mini warriors exactly the same as the ones in the gift shop and was also asking 50 for them. We asked if he would do them any cheaper and after much haggeling we managed to get the price down… can you guess what price we paid? We managed to get him down from 50 to 1.50!! We’ve had to bargain for pretty much every souvenir we’ve bought in Asia, but haggling is insane here in China. Whatever the starting price is you can normally get it down to between 5 and 10% of the first offer… although to be honest even we were surprised when we managed to get the souvenir set for 1.50!

Later that evening we joined a couple of other people at the hostel and were taught how to play an old Chinese game called Mahjong. Chinese people love their games, such as chess and cards, and we ended up getting taught Mahjong by the hostel caretaker and two of the cleaning ladies, who only had about five words of English between them, but despite this we all learnt how to play it within about an hour or so. One of the ladies teaching us was getting very annoyed at Tom for not understanding how to play and in the end she was shouting at him in Chinese and pushing and shoving him… although that didn’t really help matters and he never did get the hang of it. I ended up winning two games and became the caretaker’s best friend when he told me that he wanted to ‘bet money on you, you win good’. The following day we were due to get our last (ever!) sleeper train up to Beijing. The temperature outside was topping 37 degrees so we decided to spend the day in the hostel bar enjoying the air con and catching up with the blog. Later in the evening we headed to the train station; when we had booked our tickets to Beijing they had already sold out of the type of beds we normally get, called hard sleepers, so we were forced to pay double to get a soft sleeper bed. Considering we were paying twice as much as normal we were expecting big things from the soft sleeper beds so we were pretty disappointed to discover that the only real difference was that we had slightly more head room and our bedside table had a doily on it... well worth the extra 25 each I’m sure you’ll agree!      
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Comments

rach on

well you certaintly saved the best till last ! these pictures are amazing x i would love to go there , wow he must have been one serous little brat of an emporia ,those figures are so life like ,and i can believe it took 1 person a whole lifetime to make one ,were they paid ? or was it something that they had to do for there king ? had to make a hard disision on which pic to have as my background coz i loved the last one that ive had ,ive had it for a while so thought it was time 4 a change ! lol x love you to bejing and back have a safe flight tomorrow love you loads and loads ,carnt wait to see you both x

rach on

emperor even lol x

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