Tag Archives: Xi’an

Xi’an – Terracotta Warriors


Pit One

Our second day in Xi’an, our guide took us to a factory where they make Terracotta Warriors and lacquer furniture. At first we were under the impression it was educational. But after an hour of room, after room of things to buy, we discovered she and the driver set us up for a buying spree, which we did not bite. The stuff there was beautiful, better than what we saw at the Terracotta Warrior Museum, but we would have rather spent more time at the site than there. After we left, the driver and guide took us to the Terracotta Warrior Museum.

The Warriors were discovered after a farmer was digging for a well and found an artifact. The farmer still lives today and no longer farms since the find. Instead, he sits on a chair, in the gift shop, at the museum and signs a book for $100RMB each. 40 years of signing a book, could you imagine? He is quite old now. Could not photograph him without a purchase, so no picture of him.

As for the warriors, the story goes, in 247BC, when the 13-year old Zheng became King of the State of Qin, he commenced work on his burial, including the warriors that symbolized the defending force that guarded the capitol as he was alive. In 221BC, he had conquered six states, created the nation that became China and then declared himself Qin Shi Huang Di, the First Emperor of Qin. He was the first to unite China.

Soon after completion and his death in 210BC, the pits containing the warriors were seriously damaged. Many figures were broken, great number of the bronze weapons were looted, the wooden structures in the pits were burned down and the roofs caved in. According to some past archeologists, the rebel army led by Xiang Yu, Overloard of the West Chu was responsible.

This museum is located in a rural area about 45 minutes away from Xi’an. It’s a large piece of land that consists of open space with three large buildings covering pits where the warriors have been buried for over 2,200 years.

  • Pit One is assumed to have over 50 chariots and 6,000 warriors and horses. It’s 230 meters by 62 meters. So far, only 2,000 warriors and horses and 20 wooden chariots have been unearthed. The warriors, horses and chariots are all in battle formation: At the East end, three rows of vanguards are placed with the outer edge having one row of soldiers facing facing out respectively as flanks to guard the sides and rear of the army.
  • Pit Two is L-shaped and has more complex battle formations. It’s assumed to carry over 80 chariots and 1,300 warriors and horses. This pit is where they have found the archers. Pit One is said to be the first to attack, the ground forces. And Pit Two would come in second. In this pit, the only warrior, an archer, to have been unearthed and in one piece, was found here.
  • Pit Three is U-shaped, smaller, and different than Pit One and Pit Two. Where One and Two are battlefields, Pit Three is said to be the headquarters or command center of the warriors. It consists of only 68 officers, four horses and one chariot. Most of the warriors in Pit Three don’t have heads. It is suspected they were removed and destroyed. Also, where Pit One and Pit Two are nowhere near completely excavated, Pit Three was thoroughly unearthed in 1977.

The archaeologists are in no rush to complete the excavation of Pit One and Three due to the damage the air causes the warriors. When unearthed, the warriors are beautifully painted and lacquered. Once the air hits the lacquer, it dries out and the paint falls off with it; leaving what we see in the photos. What peaked our interest the most was the story we were told to how the warriors were damaged and then comparing the story to what we saw. We were told the roof caved in, cracking and damaging all of the warriors. Hard to believe since all the roofs still in place are relatively flat and showed no signs of collapse beyond compression. Whereas, the warriors and horses are broken in various places; more than what a roof compressing would do.

After some deeper investigation after getting back to the states, I found an interesting article from John Bell of the UK Geological Society. He was told the same story we were and found it did not match up with what he saw when he visited the museum also. So he set out to find the cause. First, he confirmed that fire did not consume all of the pits, nor could it since little to no air was in the earth-filled site. Also, archaeologists confirmed not all of the pits were hit by fire, only a little. He found that China has been keeping excellent records of earthquakes for thousands of years. After viewing the utter destruction of the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan and Shaanxi Provinces, he speculates a devastating earthquake to be the cause of all the damage.

He went through all the earthquake records and found in 1556AD a massive earthquake occurred. It was epi-centered only 40km from the warriors and was said to have killed more than 830,000 people; devastating a vast area of China and wiping out whole towns. Data also showed 35 EQa between 1177 and 1834AD that occurred close to where the warriors are located. Considering how the warriors look, this makes sense. What do you think when you look at the photos?

There are no photos of Pit Two. There was little light, not much is unearthed and I could not handhold a shot of what was. I did get the archer and a few others that were on display behind glass. Also, there was one more building that housed two half-life sized horses and chariots that are said to belong to the emperor. They were located in a pit next to his Mausoleum. We never got the chance to see it. We asked, but time ran out. We made it just in time for the train to depart.

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The Drum Tower…

Overnight sleeper train was the means in which we traveled from Suzhou to Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province. We climbed aboard around 7pm and arrived in Xi’an at 9am. (Note: China is the fourth largest country in the world, just under the US, and it does not have time zones. So when it’s 8am in Suzhou, it’s still 8am in Xi’an, which is a 13 hour train ride west.) The initial ride there was exciting and new. We slept okay. Even though the room had only four skinny single beds, Mike and I snuggled close so all five of us could stay together for the entire ride. As you will see in the photo, the room left little space for much more than sleep. We did read a bit and played a few games as we rolled by rural China. But the return ride was miserable. The heater would never shut off, so we overheated. We tried opening the door but we could not take the smoker’s smoke that consumed the room and we could hardly breathe. So the heat was our preference. Plus, we were close to the bathroom. The sounds imminenting from there left little to be desired. It was the morning hackers reaching deep for their loogies that about made me toss my stomach contents. The boys thought it was funny and loved laughing at me as I dry heaved to the sound. (Chinese have this habit of hacking. I am so surprised not more comes out with the effort. It’s so gross.)

Speaking of hacking, have I ever told you about Mr. Spit? He is a man who is responsible for landscaping at our condo. Every time he sees us, we all say “Ne Hao” and he quickly clears his throat, hacks a loogie and then says “Hao” back with a smile. So we nicknamed him ‘Mr. Spit’. A friend told us he is making sure we receive a clear hello.

Anyway… back to Xi’an, we used a travel agency out of Pan Pacific Hotel in Suzhou to arrange our hotel, attain an interpreter and a driver for the weekend. We were under the impression, English was not spoken in this area. NOT! English is everywhere. The driver was a necessary, but the guide not so much. Mike had little time available for travel before our return trip home to Seattle for Christmas, so we made a mad dash to sight see here before we left China. This was a quick, do-all-you-can trip of only three nights and two days. Two nights on the train, one in the hotel and both days in Xi’an.

Would I recommend doing this? Heck yes! Highly recommended. If you are only in China for two weeks, this little trip is a great way to go. Flying would be more comfortable, but the train would give you the real feel of China and its people. Plus, you get to see some amazing things in just a few days that you would never see anywhere else. Xi’an with its city wall, museum and terracotta warriors, you cannot go wrong. The terracotta warriors alone are worth the trip. My only suggestion is to leave more time for the warriors than the two hours most travel books and tour guides recommend. We put in 3.5 hours and was being pulled away by our guide because we needed to get back to the city to make the train. We could have easily spent more time there. There was much we did not get to see up close and, slowly, because of being pushed for time. The warriors was amazing impressive. A must see when one comes to China!

Caution! Guides don’t know the who truth of their history and will tell you their truth instead. Make sure you read up on what you are seeing before you go so you don’t find yourself repeating lies to people about China’s history. For instance, our guide told us Xi’an is the only city in China with its city wall still intact. When in fact, that’s not true. There are other cities with its walls. We discovered this just recently after traveling to Beijing. Beijing doesn’t not have an ounce of their wall left intact but there are cities nearby that do, like PingYao.

On our first day here in Xi’an, we walked along the city wall. No, we did not walks its entire nine miles. We just walked around in one main entry and a guard house. Then we were driven to the Shaanxi History Museum. This museum opened in the 90’s to the public. A worthwhile stop in Xi’an. It houses items up to 7,000 years old, as you will see in the photos. Mike and I kept having to pick up our jaws at all the items on display that were so old. We have never seen anything, like them, in a museum in the US. Our primitive tools of US natives are so archaic compared. The level the Chinese were at compared in timeline to us is pathetic. We were so behind technically. For example, the Chinese were chrome plating 2,200 years before the Germans and US discovered it in the 1900’s. Also, China developed and maintained manufacturing specs for weaponry over 2000 years ago. As you can see in the photos, all arrows, etc were made the same. Also, a replacement piece for weapon could easily found 100s of miles from where it was built thousands of years ago.

On this day, we also headed to Muslim Quarters to walk along their colorful street and view Xi’an’s Drum tower. Caution here! We were later told on busy days, which we were not visiting on a busy day, pick pocket-ers abound. For dinner, we enjoyed Xi’an’s specialty… dumplings. They were decorative, tasty and filling. Each dumpling resembled the meat inside. If it was pork, the dumpling was shaped like a pig’s head. Chicken meat, the dumplings looked like chickens. If the dumpling had the hot, pungent pepper, we nicknamed “numb tongue pepper”, it had a red tip on it. Our hotel was decent. It gave us a good place to warm up and dethaw for the next day to see the warriors. The weather for both days did not get over 20F. Very cold! Burrrr…. As you will see in the photos, especially at the warriors in the next blog, we were bundled up and red nosed due to the cold.

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