I had been looking forward to seeing the terracotta warriors for a long time, perhaps that is why it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
On our way to the warriors our guide explained a bit of the history behind the famous warriors. The emperor who built the terracotta warriors was called Qin Shi Huang, he was the first emperor to unite China as one country, and although his dynasty, the Qin dynasty, was very short, it marked a very important stage in Chinese history. He became king of his province at the age of 13 and died at age 50 having united China. All through his reign the construction of his mausoleum was taking place.
While most rulers before him had warriors and servants killed in order to serve them in the afterlife, the first emperor had terribly dreams of ghosts and did not want to be surrounded by ghosts in the afterlife so he decided that a terracotta army would come to life in the afterlife and defend his tomb against his enemies. He did not create this army in order to save lives however as he killed all of the artisans who helped to create his army so that they would not reveal the location of his tomb to his enemy.
Unfortunately what goes around comes around and one of the artisans who had worked on the army escaped and told the enemy of the location, so of course the enemy came and destroyed many of the warriors.
The army was only rediscovered in the 1970s when some farmers were digging a well and came across a terracotta head, they didn’t know what to do with it and so they sent it to the government, who came and excavated “pit 1” where they found the broken remnants left behind by the enemy after having destroyed and buried the army. The archeologists were essentially left with a massive jigsaw, and have been piecing together warriors ever since.
Later on “pit 2 and 3” were discovered, I believe that pit 2 was mostly intact, however most of the figures have been removed for protection and preservation. In pit 3 they discovered that originally the figures had been coloured, however within hours of exposing them to the elements the colours disappeared. This is the reason they have not uncovered the remaining tomb, as they do not currently know a way to preserve the colour.
When we arrived we went straight to pit 1 this was the largest area excavated and by far the most impressive. I did enjoy pit 1, however there were a few things that detracted from the experience. The first was that it was excessively crowded with a very pushy crowd, the second was that having seen so many pictures of the scene before it didn’t feel quite so special, particularly since most photos are from the same level as the warriors, but our view was from above. Lastly was that there was still so much of pit 1 to be uncovered and pieced together still, this last was a much smaller factor as I understand it takes a long time for these things to happen, and it was quite interesting to see the process.
As I say I did still enjoy pit 1, it was amazing to see the warriors lined up in rank, ready to face the invisible foe; It was captivating looking at the faces and seeing the small details which made each one unique; and it was interesting to see that they had thought of necessities like horse and carts to get around in the afterlife (even though the carts had rotted away a long time ago).
After pit 1 we went to the souvenir shop where they had everything from mini figurines at 20 yuan to full size opal or soapstone figures for hundreds of thousands of yuan.
We continued on to pit 3 which was much smaller and only with a few figures very far down. It was still interesting to see these as they were much more intact and they were thought to be guards rather than just soldiers. There were also some pictures of what they looked like before the colour had faded which was interesting. I do hope in the future they find a way to preserve the colour.
Finally we went to pit 2, which was a bigger area again, however most of the figures had been moved out of the area for preservation and it basically showed the stone structure left behind, there were a few replicas at the sides to view but these were incredibly crowded. At this point the heat and the crowds started to get to me and I must admit I was slightly disappointed there were not more figures on display, so I didn’t take as long over pit 2.
There was also a museum set up with various recreations, however there was not a lot of information in English, it was very dark and the crowds were even worse in there so I hurried though, ready to move on.
Just a note that the surrounding countryside was also beautiful, although the weather was scorching hot.
When we did move on, our guide had made arrangements for us to have a meal at a local home nearby. However en route we stumbled across an artillery display which was quite interesting, there was no details and I have no idea of the purpose of some of the machines. The food was delicious and refreshing. I felt much better for having had lunch and prepared for our 20 hour train ride that was coming up.