Terra Cotta Warriors
(For some reason, the paragraph breaks are not working. Sorry for the hard reading on these long posts.)
Victor told us it would take 1 hour to drive there and 1 hour to drive back and 2 hours there and 1 hour for lunch and our train leaves at 8:00 pm so we’ll get back to Xi’an in time for the train.
Well it took nearly two hours to get there, and it was a Saturday, so half of China was at the museum. The museum is HUGE. Between the Warriors and the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang hundreds of acres are under excavation and exploration. The whole place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an active archaeological site. Except that there were no archaeologists working on Saturday. . .
Lots of walking just to get to the pits – what a misnomer: there are indeed pits, but they are enclosed in gigantic buildings the size of airplane hangers, as a way to display the active sites. Victor gave us really good history Emperor Qin and the things he did in unifying China. Unified 7 warring factions into the largest empire ever, even larger than the current People’s Republic. Created the first uniform written language – how huge is that? – and built substantial parts of the Great Wall as a defense against the Mongols and other neighbors.
We had read in the guidebook that it was a good idea to visit the smaller Pit 3 and Pit 2 before taking on the major excavation at Pit 1. How right that was. We had a little trouble convincing Victor to do it that way, but he finally relented. Pit 3 is tiny with only a few figures uncovered and even fewer restored. Almost no one is in there.
Pit 2 is huge, about the size of a football field, but is mostly not excavated. Lots of info about what might be under the unexcavated collapsed roof of the mausoleum.
Pit 1 is overwhelming, and full of every tourist in China. It is so large that you simply cannot take it in. And when you realize that most of it is still to be excavated, there is just no way to connect with it. We were told there are about 1000 figures unearthed and restored and at least another 6000 still buried. Solders, archers, officers, charioteers, horses, soldiers, kneeling archers, soldiers. Many have mustaches and elaborate hairstyles. Some are missing their heads. Every now and then you look and think they are moving and alive. It’s too much. And in some respects about Yunnan, it’s almost anticlimax.
This is Pit 3, the short side. The well which revealed the pit was dug in the far left corner of the picture.
The museum interpreting all the excavations in the neighborhood of Qin’s Tomb is pretty good, sparse, but quality explanations of things. Makes you want to spend a whole day checking out the various areas that have been excavated, arranging to visit the on-going digs and interpretive areas in progress. We tried to see the very fine bronze chariots that were made for reasons not quite clear yet – I’ll have to look them up when we get home. But the brass work is extremely fine.
However, even more of China was here. Interesting about how many Chinese view their museums. They walk in with a camera, take a snapshot or a movie of every exhibit and then move on. No one stops to actually look at the exhibits. I found this unsettling. I can look at a picture any time. If I’m at the museum where the “real thing” is on display, I want to have time just to look at it and take it in. To absorb what it is like to be in the presence of the item. With the picture taking posture, there is simply no way to take anything in, by sitting down (or standing up) and looking at it.
I won’t say one should skip the Warriors, but be prepared for it to be not what you expected.