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the terracotta army

Xian Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army

We got back to the United States a few weeks ago after spending three weeks camping through Africa. [And, yes, if you are wondering why I am still posting about China, it is because I am behind.  Very, very behind.  But, I will tell you about Africa, soon, I promise!]  We had no internet, television, radio, or telephone, so we were virtually cocooned from everything happening around the world.  We landed in the United States and within moments, we were bombarded.  Apparently, there was an election last week.  Did you know that?  You probably did . . . because you weren't camping in the middle of Africa.

Terracotta Army pits Unexcavated pits
Terracotta soldiers Pit 2 Terracotta Soldier

Pits 2 and 3

Anyhow, we got back and I was immediately smacked in the face with the "crazy talk."  "So and so doesn't care about the needs of our people" and "so and so has no control over the economy" and "so and so isn't American" and so on.  Let me tell you, it is a bit jarring to land in the middle of vicious catfights after spending three blissful weeks disbarred from the world.  At the same time, no matter how insane people sounded, there are crazier politicians out there.

Terracotta Soldier Xian

Terracotta Soldier in Pit 3

Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of Qin (259-210 BC), was one of those truly crazy people.  He became emperor when he was just 13 years old, barely in his teens, and the power floated right to his head.  Like most of these old emperors, he had a bizarre birth and childhood: he turned out not to have been the biological child of the previous king but rather the biological child of his father's chancellor and the concubine who seduced the king (yeah, it sounds like a soap opera, right?).  He conquered much of the land that is modern-day China and set thousands of slaves to work on the predecessor to the Great Wall of China.

Horse Terracotta Xian Terracotta Soldier face
Terracotta soldier face Hands Terracotta Soldier

Faces, horses, hands in Pit 3

From an early age, he was obsessed with his own death.  He searched for the Elixir of Life and investigated innumerable potions to grant him long life.  At age 13, he ordered the construction of an immense mausoleum and tomb. 

Xian Pit 1

Pit 1

Archaeologists believe that anywhere from 70,000 to 700,000 men were consigned to construct the huge chambers, halls, and soldiers, and each was ordered to his death afterwards, so that none would know of the Emperor's hidden immortal army.  (In fact, the terracotta army was only discovered in 1974 when a local farmer was digging a well and uncovered a piece of a sculpted soldier.)

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army in Pit 1

Today, archaeologists have excavated 8,000 terracotta soldiers, cavalry, and officers that would guard the Emperor in the afterlife.  Each soldier is life-size and life-like, carved in amazing detail.  When we stood there looking at the legions of terracotta soldiers, we were staggered by the sheer number and the fact that there are potentially thousands more terracotta soldiers to be excavated. 

Xian Terracotta soldier Xian Terracotta soldiers
Xian Terracotta Soldiers Incense burning

Terracotta soldiers, incense burning

Ironically, the Emperor died from mercury poisoning after taking mercury pills that his doctors claimed would make him immortal.  Now, regardless of whether you are happy or disappointed by the results of last week's election, aren't you glad that our politicians aren't this crazy?

Details

Xian child

Boy looking at fountain in Xian

Xi'an is a really lovely city and we wish that we had more time to spend there.  We stayed at the fantastic Han Tang Inn hostel where they threw big parties every night, including a tasting party on Thursday night with Xi'an specialties. 

Caramel apples in Xian

There is lots to see in Xi'an, including an amazing museum and several really nice temples, fountains, and other monuments.  If you are feeling energetic, you can rent bikes to roam around the city walls.

11/11/2010 07:42
Qin Shi Huang was one paranoid guy, wasn't he????
11/11/2010 15:48
I LOVE Xi'an! Been there twice now. What a great post explaining the terracotta soldiers. Your writing and pics are just amazing. My fave pic was of the incense.
11/12/2010 14:35
Thank you for the story behind this. We were able to catch the exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta last year. I would love to be at the real location one day.
Amy @ The Q Family's recent blog post: The Traveling Soul: My Own Inspiring Story
11/13/2010 04:02
wow, I didn't realise they were life size (I thought they were small statues), that makes it much more epic than a photo from a viewing point could ever convey.

I need to get to China asap, the country is changing so rapidly. Last week in the UK a Chinese vase (predicted to sell for £800k-1.2M) sold for £56 million! Chinese antiques are highly valued and in demand now, could you imagine what the terracotta army is worth?
AdventureRob's recent blog post: With Love From Japan – Miyavi
12/06/2010 00:47
Think i should check this on my trip to China. I was always wondering why the terracotta army is created, fascinating.
12/15/2010 06:51
Just to warn readers - there is a so called Terracotta Army exhibition in Dorchester (UK) which failed to meet my expectations....
DaveG from Time to Wander's recent blog post: Top 10 Destinations 2011
12/15/2010 08:46
Tran, absolutely!

Thanks Andi! It is actually a really fun city. We want to go back and see it again.

Thanks Amy! We also went to the High Museum exhibit and it gave us a little taste for what we would see in China.

Rob: Yeah, they're life size and everyone is completely individual. I can't imagine how much these are worth and, apparently, there are much more still to be dug up.

Liezel, It's definitely a great place to visit but plan ahead so that you can find a great place to stay. We really liked the Han Tang Inn.

DaveG, that's good to know. Thanks for sharing that info!
Akila's recent blog post: overlanding 101
01/02/2011 12:53
Hi Akila,
It's definitely sad to see that we had leaders that slaughter their own subjects. And we've had more than one of such leaders (Hitler?). I guess power makes certain people paranoid and that leads to censorship, killings and such barbaric acts. Such a wonderful site but a shameful history.

btw, I heard (maybe its a myth) that the architect of Taj Mahal wasn?t spared either, the emperor feared he?d build a bigger and better structure next time. Yeah right, like its easy to do that...
Priyank
Priyank's recent blog post: Photo Friday 01.21: USA
01/02/2011 12:58
Priyank, It's so frequently the case that these great monuments of the past were built on slave labor . . . think of the Pyramids, as well! I never heard that about the Taj Mahal though I do know that they hired thousands of workers and many were slaves.
Akila's recent blog post: our santa

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