I have to say, the terra-cotta soldier's museum took me by surprise. After visiting the Great Wall, I thought nothing could blow me away anymore but I was mistaken.
This morning, we went to an on-site museum where archeologists have excavated and are still excavating pits around an early emperor’s tomb.
National Geographic arranged for our group to have a meeting with the deputy director of the museum and our guide/translator Lin helped us understand her a little better. Lin was actually Bill Clinton’s guide/translator when he visited Xian during his term. Anyway, this meeting was very formal and there was even a Chinese journalist with his camera documenting the ordeal.
We were then led to a VIP viewing platform and had the BEST view of the terra-cotta soldiers.
This is the view from Pit 1. The pit is for battle formations of charioteers and infantrymen. The very last row of soldiers on either side are facing away instead of forwards. This was so that they could spot the enemy from every direction. Apparently, this emperor annexed a number of dukes and has collected some enemies along the way. These six-foot clay soldiers are meant to protect him from his enemies in the afterlife.
Not one soldier is alike. I has been studied that this emperor had an army of 8.000 men which served as models for each statue. These soldiers are from all over china so if you look closely you can see differences in features like weight, nose, lips, etc. Another interesting fact is that men of that era seldom cut their hair, some going their whole life without doing so. It was believed that hair was a gift from the mother during birth so they kept it for good luck. When they joined the army, soldiers simply put their hair in a topknot on top of their heads. You can also notice that the horses are shorter than the men. During that time, they had horses of a smaller build. It wasn’t until the Mongolians brought their horses that the Chinese horses started becoming larger.
Something that wasn’t very clear to me was why were these soldiers 600 lbs. and standing past 6 ft. tall while yesterday’s soldiers were doll-sized? It turns out that yesterday’s pits were from the Han dynasty, which came much later than this. One can only imagine how much money and time went into making life-sized replicas so China was very poor after this emperor passed away. People were even still working on more soldiers after his passing! In the future, other dynasties learned from these mistakes. Smaller statues were being made that saved time and money. After all, the physical body stays in our world, it’s the soul that goes on.
It's fascinating how literal the term "on-site museum" really is. This man is working on the second half of this pit which has not yet been filled with restored artifacts.
It's important to get a feel of the land that these pits were found in. Xian is very lush in some parts with beautiful mountain ranges. Archeologists know some excavating sites nearby but the government has yet to grant them permission to unearth those possible relics.
After lunch, we went to a Chinese Muslim Mosque. I never realized how many Chinese Muslims there are and it was fascinating getting to be with them during prayer.
The mosque was wedged inside an immense bazaar full of vendors. This is where I found a few gifts for others (and myself) and attempted to make some pictures of how busy the place really was. Being around all that energy was really exciting and refreshing.
We had dinner at a very famous dumpling restaurant within walking distance of the bazaar. I wasn’t feeling so well to eat a lot but all of the dumplings were in the shape of the meat inside… it was pretty neat. Crossing the street, we joined in on what I think was the beginning of Xian nightlife. Around 8:00pm all of the buildings were lit up, there were dancers and musicians on the square, still some vendors, and just such a lively atmosphere!