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[The whole series of blogs can be read here]

Sunday June 29th was my requested sightseeing day. I wanted to see the Terracotta Army.

This requires another bullet train, this time to the ancient city of Xi’an (she-ahn). Xi’an is 295 miles from Zhengzhou. By comparison, Scranton to Pittsburgh is 284. The bullet train covered this distance in just over two hours. America needs bullet trains.

The Terracotta Army was built for the funeral of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Or Qin’a, as in the ‘land of Qin’. At the time, what we now call China was a series of warring feudal states. One by one, Qin Shi Huang conquered those states and brought them under his rule, eventually crowning himself as the emperor of China at age 38.

The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang

The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang

Qin Shi Huang’s own history is amazing. He united the warring states, ushered in political and economic reforms, survived several assassination attempts, built the precursor to the Great Wall, and later in life, sent his magicians looking for the elixir of life to make him immortal. What they ended up bringing him was essentially mercury, which induced madness. He died at age 50.

His tomb was built outside of Xi’an, between the mountains and a river, in an amazingly beautiful area.

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His Terracotta Army was built as a force of some 8000 soldiers that would let him conquer the afterlife as he had brought his own world under his control. Castings were made of individual generals and other high-ranking officers, archers, cavalry including horses, and infantry. They were buried in 15 meter deep pits, in full regimental order of battle, then covered with a roof supported by wood beams and buried by feet of soil around 210 BC. It was never meant to be seen again.

Over time, the wood deteriorated and the ceiling collapsed. In 1974, a farmer digging a well found clay remnants at the very corner of the pit. Excavations began. In 1976, the site was enclosed. In 1979, it was opened to the public. in 1987, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Army was in ruins, smashed bits of clay. Through a massive preservation effort, the bits are slowly being reformed into whole soldiers and placed back into the lines of battle.

There are actually 3 pits, the largest being Pit #1.

I’ve been teaching China for almost a decade. I’ve seen pictures of the Terracotta Warriors. NOTHING compares to being there in person.

Entrance to Pit #1

Entrance to Pit #1

First view of the Terracotta Army. restored soldiers are in front as the battle lines are recreated. In the back, you can see the hundreds of thousands of smashed pieces of pottery still awaiting restoration.

First view of the Terracotta Army. Restored soldiers are in front as the battle lines are recreated. In the back, you can see the hundreds of thousands of smashed pieces of pottery still awaiting restoration.

The vanguard

The vanguard

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Tourguide Jerry

Tourguide Jerry

Large portions have yet to be unearthed. Agreement has been reached that these will be left alone until preservation technology improves. The Army was originally full painted, but exposure to UV lights faded the paint. Until they can develop a way to save the color, no more will be unearthed.

Large portions have yet to be unearthed. Agreement has been reached that these will be left alone until preservation technology improves. The Army was originally fully painted, but exposure to UV lights faded the paint. Until they can develop a way to save the color, no more will be unearthed.

Completed in the restoration area and waiting to go into the line of battle.

Completed in the restoration area and waiting to go into the line of battle.

The restoration area

The restoration area

Pit #3, the command center

Pit #3, the command center

In the museum. Look at the detail, even the treads of the shoes. Note the remaining original color.

In the museum. Look at the detail, even the treads of the shoes. Note the remaining original color.

The faces are NOT casts. Each was molded to look like an individual in the Emperor's army. You're looking at the face of someone who fought for the emperor 2300 years ago.

The faces are NOT casts. Each was molded to look like an individual in the Emperor’s army. You’re looking at the face of someone who fought for the emperor 2300 years ago.

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One of 7 generals found at the site. This man knew the First Emperor personally.

One of 7 generals found at the site. This man knew the First Emperor personally.

The army was fully armed. Although the leather and wood from the weapons has deteriorated, the bronze hasn't. This is a sword carried for 2300 years underground by a Terracotta Warrior.

The army was fully armed. Although the leather and wood from the weapons has deteriorated, the bronze hasn’t. This is a sword carried for 2300 years underground by a Terracotta Warrior.

After leaving the Army, we toured the city of Xi’an. Xi’an is two cities. Modern Xi’an is a world class city. If I had to pick somewhere to live in China, it’s Xi’an. Great shopping district, incredible public works, beautiful parks and grounds. And then there’s the wall.

The city wall was constructed as a fortification in the 14th century under the Ming Dynasty. It’s one of the best preserved city walls in the world. Entrance to the old city is controlled by 4 gates which cross a waterway surrounding the old city.

The Drum Tower, used to signal soldiers and citizens

The Drum Tower, used to signal soldiers and citizens

THIS is China.

[The whole series of blogs can be read here]

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