Today we are visiting the Terracotta Army, something I have been looking forward to since before we left. Even when we went to get our travel injections and said we was visiting China she straightaway said, “are you going to visit the Terracotta Warriors?” The alarm buzzed again at 7 but I could not handle it again more, and told Hayley I was setting it for 8, I got a grunt which I took as OK, and went back to sleep. We didn’t get the option to have a breakfast at the hotel but when we was checking in we found out that they do offer one, and its only £2.60. As you can imagine we didn’t hesitate. I never really had toast when I was at home but this was the only thing familiar to me and it was so delicious I had 3 slices and washed it down with 2 hard boiled eggs, a plate for off rice, a yoghurt and grapes.
Conveniently the number 30 and 40 bus stop right out outside our hotel witch take us to the Xi’an train station. From here you can grab the 306 to the Terracotta Army. The Terracotta Arms is located 40km east of Xi’an and will take about an hour costing 70p per person. From where you are dropped it’s a 10 minute walk to the entrance and of course the streets are lined with people trying to sell you something. We were also bombarded with people offering a tour guide but we knew there was an audio tour and we believe these are so much better. You can go at your own pace and you always get more detailed information than a guide. They are also very sneaky, as you walk in they ill ask you if you would like a guy and when you reply telling them that you would like the audio guide they will tell you that it is no good and its only 20 minutes long. Don’t listen to them, its very detailed and extensive. You can also share one guide between two people and its only £4.
Entering the main hall you are blown away by the scale of the discovery, its said to be the most significant discovery of the 20th century and you can believe it. Just to give you a little bit of background, the terracotta army was created 2200 years ago for three reasons. The first was to glorify the first Emperor Qin (pronounced Chin), the second was to commemorate the army that conquered all other armies and united china and finally because it was believed that once Qin passed away he could raise the army and use it in the after life. Around 6000 life size warriors where made, each with their own unique face and expression. The army was meant to live underground so 5 long pits were dug our several meters below the surface. The floors were tiled and then they were filled with warriors, horses and wooden chariots. Huge wooden pillars were then placed every few meters each side to support a solid roof that was covered in woven reeds, the same techniques are still used today. Unfortunately Emperor Qin was not a very good ruler and caused a lot of resentment among the people. A great fire destroyed a large quantity of the army and historians believe it may have been the civilians who did it.
By the end of the next emperors rain the terracotta arm was completely forgotten until it was discovered by a farmer digging a well in 1975. The site was then full excavated and a second and third pit were discovered. Unfortunately with the wooden roof decaying and the fire the army was nothing but broken pieces. The restoration process is painstakingly long. First the pieces are excavated, washed and labeled with the location they were found, then a very patient team glue them back together and fill in any holes that are left. Just look at the before and after.
Apart from Pit 1,2 and 3 there are more, smaller, pits located in Emperor Qin ShiHuang’s mausoleum site museum located 1.5km away from the army. You can enter with the same ticket and there is even a free shuttle bus. The site it quite large and we rented a tandem bike for £5, individual bikes are £2.70 for 70 minutes.
Pit 1 is by far the most spectacular, row upon of restored warriors stand side by side. You cant help but think what a waist of time and resources, the ego the emperor must have had is mind boggling. The say absolute power corrupts absolutely. I suppose the pyramids are another example. Pit 2 is much smaller than pit 1 but is mostly formed of chariots and archers. There is a restored kneeling archer in a glass cabinet and you can get really close and see all the detail. They even have tread on the soles of their boots. Pit 3 is the smallest pit we saw but is thought to be more of a council, with the statues facing each other as if they are in a meeting. So not only did this guy have an army, he seems to have an entire government buried as well.
We read online that you only need half a day here but you want to get here early and spend the full day. We are not history buffs and if you have followed us for a while you will know we really don’t like museums, but there is so much to do across the two sites a full day is essential. We spent a total of 6 hours and still didn’t get everything done, that’s excluding all the traditional museum parts that just show broken pottery (not something we are in to).
A quick fact that I thought was really interesting, being a science nerd. They found that some of the blades were plated with Chromium, this protected the edge and stopped corrosion. These blades were pulled out of the ground 2200 year after they were made and still had a shine. Germany and America apparently “invented” Chromium plating in the 1930’s / 50’s. Sorry guys, ancient China beat you to it.