Thursday, May 31, 2018

Meeting the Terracotta Warriors and their Horses

China's Terracotta Warriors are atop many a bucket list and worthy of the effort to see them.

Xi'an, about an hour away, is an excellent headquarters from which to start. It was the first capital of China thanks to the country's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang (201-210 B.C.), who ordered the warriors for his tomb. Then named Chang'an, Xi'an served as capital for 13 dynasties until the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 A.D.) moved to Beijing. Many interesting things to see there, but the warriors are our first priority.

Levelers be warned: The Chinese build big, now and in the past. Long pedestrian boulevards, multiple series of steps, gigantic statuary.

The formally named Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum complex is understandably enormous. Not only must it accommodate large crowds - most of the visitors I saw were Chinese - there is much more to be excavated and displayed in the future. Emperor Chin was young and his reign was a short one, but his plans for his tomb were mammoth.

In addition to the army - 700 figures have been unearthed so far but there are perhaps 7,000 more archers, infantry, horses, cavalrymen, charioteers and chariots to go - the Emperor's own tomb is even larger and expected to take generations to unearth, catalogue and deal with.

Fortunately for Levelers, the ground upon which it all sits is level. Unfortunately,  the buildings are erected over the army excavation pits (there are three of those), which means stairs to navigate.

Warning: Women, the Chinese use squat toilets and that is what you will find here. There may be a Western-style one, usually marked with the handicap wheelchair symbol, but I did not see one.

There is a bit of a walk between bus parking and the ticket office and a much longer walk between it and the museum.

Tip: Save your time and energy; take one of the open-air shuttles to eliminate a sizeable portion of the walk.

Begin with the museum for closeups of the finished figures, photographs of the excavations and an overlook into the pit below.

Tip: As you can see in the photograph (to the right), there is a ramp entrance that circumvents those 26 steps that go up and then down for a total of 52.

The inside is dark with the two spectacular bronze chariots pulled by four bronze horses and examples of every type of warrior and their armor plus numerous photos and an overlook into the finds in situ.

Tip: Levelers will have 22 steps to exit to pit No. 2, where the army continues, in various stages of disrepair. 

Slowly the enormity of it all begins to sink in as you exit the four steps down from the rear.

  It hits with a thud of disbelief at the third pit.

Tip: Eleven steps up, 16 steps down.

The seemingly endless quonset hut-shaped structure is awe inspiring in its vastness. So are the ranks of soldiers and horses within it.

The emperor was going to be very well protected in the afterlife.

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