A Travellerspoint blog

Terracotta Army

Emperor Qin's Posse

sunny 95 °F

We met our guide in the hotel lobby at a later start time than usual for us – 8:30. The drive to the museum took about 45 minutes. We stopped at a craftsman shop before we went to the museum so that we could see the technique for making the warriors. The modern technique is very similar to the one used by the workers 2,000 years ago. The main difference is the use of coal to fire the kiln instead of wood. The man at the kiln told us that if they still used wood like the original makers of the terracotta army to make the replicas he sells in his shop, “There wouldn’t be any trees left on the mountains”. The fire under the kiln has to burn for 7 straight days in order to fully bake the clay. The guy that was telling us all about the local handicrafts was hilarious. He loved to talk and talk. He helped me learn a few Mandarin phrases and gave me tips on how to properly pronounce words. Apparently he knows several languages and loves a chance to show off his skills. He also was chatting up Julia, our guide. She tried her best to avoid him but there was no avoiding that guy! He was fun and seemed to love life.
Before the items are fired, they have to be molded and details must be added. There were several ladies at the shop that had trays of little horses and soldiers that they had finished. Everything is still done by hand. Dan doesn’t typically like to buy things, but he found a general and a soldier (both about 8 inches high) that he liked and so our luggage will be just a bit heavier.
The complex that houses the actual pits with the Terracotta Army looks a bit like driving up to an amusement park. The parking lot area is crowded with buses, walking tourists, and people hawking goods. Around the outside of the lot crowds countless stalls filled with colorful cloth and plastic souvenirs. It was a little shocking to see the “8th Wonder of the World” staged like this. From the lot to the pits took a 25-minute walk on a smooth, wide stone path that was lined on both sides with more shops and little restaurants. The temperature was a balmy 90 degrees and the 25-minute walk felt much longer because of the heat. I need to buy on e of the parasols that so many Asian girls carry. They look a little silly, but they are a practical way to block out the sun and keep cooler.
When we finally reached the area with the pits, we were ushered into a 360-degree theater to watch a movie about The Qin Dynasty and how the army came to be. To watch the movie, our heads were constantly swiveling to see the action all around us. It was a strange movie with long pauses and dramatic music. By long pauses in narration, I mean a 2 to 3 minute lapse. We kept thinking the movie was over but no one was leaving the circular theater.
After the movie, we walked to see the bronze chariots, one of which is a replica and the other an original that was restored. They were built at ½ scale because the bronze technology was limited at that time and they were not able to make them full scale like the other warriors. While these items were interesting, it was hard to get much of a glimpse due to the mad crush of people. I managed to jostle my way to the front of the exhibit and snap off a few pictures before I got bumped out of the way. In China, people are really pushy. Not in a mean way but in a” get out of my way I want to see this, too” way. I’ve learned to not take offense; it is simply the way things are done here. People will skip to the front of a line if they can and no one says anything. I guess when you are surrounded by so many millions of others, you have to be a bit pushy at times.
After the chariots we finally got the opportunity to peek in one of the pits. We started with the smaller pits and left pit 1 for last. Pit 2 is a more recent excavation sight and the majority of the soldiers are still under roof. Let me explain. When 4 farmers digging a well discovered the pits, archeologists started doing exploration digs. They uncovered structures that housed the warriors. The structures are clay roofs on top of wooden beams with sealed entrances and exits. The wooden beams rotted away and the clay roofs collapsed on top of the terracotta warriors so the pits look like undulating grooves with some parts open where you can peek at some of the warriors. Only Pit 1 has a large number of warriors on display. In Pit 2 we could only see bits and pieces of soldiers scattered around the entrance to the soldiers. There are also scorch marks on the tops of some of the clay roofs. A rebellion against the Qins sprung up shortly after Qin’s death and the rebels armed themselves with the bronze weapons fashioned for the terracotta warriors. On their way out from pillaging the clay army, they set fire to the wooden timbers. So a lot of the warriors are in bad shape due to fallen roofs, rebels destroying things, and time.
At this point I was wondering how the tomb, and it really is a part of the tomb of Emperor Qin, managed to remain a secret until 1974. The answer is that many floods covered the area over the years and the location was not written down as it was to be a secret. The son of Emperor Qin had the builders sealed inside his father’s tomb when he buried him. Cruel kid. Of course the rebels plundered the soldiers for weaponry but that was before the area was flooded. The soldiers are covered by 15 to 21 feet of silt deposited by floods.
Pit 3 held the army headquarters with only 72 warriors and horses. Most of the warriors were of a higher rank.
Pit 2 is mostly covered but has about 1300 warriors under those rooftops. Five restored soldiers are on display in glass cases. Each of the warriors has different and unique facial features and expressions. By each, I mean every single soldier, all 8,000 or so.
Impressive is an inadequate word to describe Pit 1. It is under a structure the size of an airplane hangar and holds 2,000 restored warriors with an additional 4,000 soldiers underground or in the “Soldier Hospital”. We visited on a Sunday so we didn’t have a chance to see the restoration process of the broken soldiers. All of the soldiers need some work before they can go back into their original spot in the pit.
On our way back to the lot Dan said that he felt that everything else we would see would pale in comparison. I think he really liked it.

Posted by SusanConradWang 19:40 Archived in China Tagged xi'an terracotta_warriors Comments (1)


9 million people living under a yellow cloud.

overcast 95 °F

We arrived at the airport in Xi’an and immediately felt the oppressive, sweltering heat. The temperature was around 95 and climbing. A huge yellow dust cloud seemed to just hang over the area. The airport is located about 45 minutes outside of the city and the ride in was very informative as our guide met us at the airport and escorted us to our hotel and she filled almost the entire drive with information about Xi’an and the things that we would be seeing(Terracotta Warriors, Muslim Quarter, Bell Tower, and Big Goose Pagoda). One interesting thing about the city is that it is growing so quickly that the outskirts of the city does not yet have traffic lights. It made for an interesting entry into the city as our driver had to gauge the movements of cars, bicycles, pedestrians, and scooters and decide when he had the right of way (which really does not exist in China as far as I can tell). We had a couple of close calls!


We stayed in the Sheraton, a brand new hotel outside the North Wall of the gated part of the city. The hotel in Beijing was nice but this hotel was a true 5 star hotel with out of this world facilities. The pool area was jaw droppingly clean and luxurious. The changing room had a sauna, therapeutic spa, steam room, ice fountain, snazzy showers, and swanky showers. We were in heaven. After seeing the pool area and the work out room we decided to stay in for the evening, work out, and relax by the pool. It was divine and we needed the down time.

Posted by SusanConradWang 02:29 Archived in China Tagged xi'an Comments (0)

Tiananmen Square

Oh the grandness!

sunny 77 °F


Instead of going back to our hotel after our day of touring we had the bus drop us by Tiananmen Square so we could explore the area. Mao’s huge portrait is one of the first things we saw as we got closer to the square. Once again, the grand scale of everything in China is impressive and a bit overwhelming. The building is so large that I had to cross the street by way of underground crossing in order to fit everything in a photo. That’s pretty large.



As we walked around the square area we noticed a lot of families and groups of friends just hanging out and socializing/playing. Some kids had their scooters or bikes and were zipping around. At the North end of the square was a huge Chinese flag guarded by several soldiers. A crowd was gathered in anticipation of the lowering of the flag. We didn’t stay to witness that as we chose to walk around and enjoy the cooler night air. Huge museums and official looking buildings surround the square. I was stopped a couple of times by mothers wanting to know if I would take a picture with their child. I happily obliged. Its nice feeling like a celebrity even if it is for no other reason than for my blond hair.


After we explored for a bit we walked to Wang fu Jia, a street full of food and shops. The market was full of people standing almost shoulder to shoulder and moving along slowly.


The stalls had fruit, snacks, and exotic things like scorpions on a stick, fried salamanders, and deep-fried tarantulas. I didn’t actually see anyone eating those foods, but they were interesting to see. Most people were munching on chicken satay and drinking yogurt or fruit drinks. The bustle of the market was exciting and the smells were at times delightful and at times gag-worthy.
We tried to hail a cab to take us back to the hotel as we were beat, but no one would pick us up. After trying for 10 minutes or so, a taxi driver approached us and tried negotiating an exorbitant rate to transport us. He backed off when a police motorcycle drove by but tried again after the policeman passed by. After experiencing similar interactions several times as we walked down the street, we decided to walk the 2 km back to the hotel. We found out the next day that the law is that taxi drivers are not allowed on the road where our hotel is located during the rush hour in order to lessen the traffic congestion. Aha! It all made sense after we learned that little tidbit. The taxi drivers wanted more to drop us off since they would be breaking the law. The walk ended up being a nice way to end the day and we were able to see more of Beijing up close.

Posted by SusanConradWang 02:09 Archived in China Tagged tiananmen_square Comments (0)

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