Day 153 – Army of me

Apart from the Great Wall, perhaps the the next biggest tourist attraction that people are aware of in China is located about 40 minutes outside Xi’an. Though prior to two farmers digging a new well in the 1970s there was nothing here which probably explains the architectural style of the area that has spring up immediate round the area.

As you leave the car park and head towards the museum that holds the world famous (and yet another UNESCO site to add to our growing collection) Terracotta Warriors you can’t help but get the feeling you are walking through a British pedestrianised shopping precinct from the 1980s era.  Seriously, swap the souvenir shops for a Greggs and a tanning salon and you’d swear you were in Bradford city centre.

What the two farmers discovered were some old porcelain fragments that ended up being the first part of one of the most amazing archeological discoveries of all time.

The Terracotta Warriors are part of a huge mausoleum area that was created at the request of the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty over 200 years ago.  He believed that you “treat death like life”, meaning that death was simply a transition from one life to another and he wanted to remain as powerful in the next world as he was in this.

A relatively short lived but incredibly influential period of Chinese rule had unified large parts of what is now modern China with a powerful army, introducing standardisation of measurements, currency and language.  He wanted to have his army with him in the next world and therefore had thousands of soldiers built to surround his tomb.

They were placed in real army formation, complete with infantry, chariots and cavalry. Originally all held different weapons, but as the handles were made of wood only fragments remain.  Beyond the army were other type of people, acrobats, women and even stables, in essence he wanted an entire city with him.

The museum is split into 3 buildings, each covering a ‘pit’ that has been excavated and found to have remnants of this buried military force.  Over 6000 ‘items’ have been discovered so far, though none of them were intact.  A huge project (that is considered a great honour to work on) to reconstruct the army is ongoing, like a giant jigsaw, and there are now enough of these re-built soldiers to give you a sense of awe.

Everyone is unique.  Different face, height, build and stance.  Though they are all slightly larger than life, thought to make them look even more imposing in the next world.  With no moulds and construction by hand, building layers of clay on top of each other, it would have been a laborious project with estimates at 2 months per warrior.  In fact despite starting the project in his 20s, the place was not completed at the time of his death, and I wonder what the people thought of him at the end.  They certainly didn’t like enough to finish it, as a fourth pit was discovered incomplete, and they may have thought that enough money had been wasted on this foolish and vain project.


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