Monday, February 29, 2016


Cesca and I were eagerly awaiting this part of the trip. Our dad had wanted us to see the Great Wall in particular, and our mom, those guys hanging out up there, the Terracotta warriors!

After our overnight train, we met our tour guide, Jenny. She took us to our hotel and gave us time for breakfast and to freshen up. The hotel was super nice.

Then we started out for the warriors. Jenny said she used to love seeing them, but she's been over 70 times so now she's a little sick of them. She likes seeing the groups faces though, and she knew a lot about them, so that was really great. 

This part was by far the most amazing, interesting and awesome part of our trip to China.

Jenny leading us to the site of the warriors 

In 1974, farmers were digging a well near Xi'an, when they came across a pottery head. Discovering pottery wasn't exactly rare in Xi'an, given it had been the capital of many Chinese dynasties, but this one was pretty interesting. It was terrifying to discover that the head changed colors when they came back to it, and this piece from the well led to the discovery of one of the greatest archaeological finds in history.

I didn't really know much about the warriors besides that there were a bunch of them. They are part of a huge tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The area stretches for 20+ miles and includes hundreds of pits. He ordered a massive army to be constructed to protect his tomb and his power, perhaps hoping he could carry the power beyond the grave. He ruled over a time of prosperity in China, but was also super brutal and ordered a lot of people killed. Many were also killed when he died and entombed with him, like his concubines and such.

The first pit contains a few thousand warriors
horses and the remains of chariots. People really didn't know
these were there. In the back, you can see a hole
where someone was buried. A tomb within a tomb,
they barely missed discovering the site!

They used to have real weapons, but the tomb was
raided and most of them were stolen

Every soldier has a unique face and is dressed and styled
according to his rank

the gap is where a chariot would go but it was
made of wood and therefore decayed in the
2000 years before the tomb was discovered

some of the heads were stolen, not re assembled or are in museums

Now, here's what I didn't know. The soldiers weren't found intact, like I had previously thought. After the fall of the Qin dynasty, this tomb was discovered and raided for weapons and the solders were destroyed, the tomb burned. Archaeologists are painstakingly reassembling the warriors and placing them back in their original positions. 

this is how they were found

this is only the first pit. You can see where the roof was burned
if you look for the black ashes

dubbed "the hospital," this is where soldiers being reconstructed go

apparently the one lying down has been there for like 10 years.
They won't put them back with fake pieces or partially constructed.

This is a separate pit, pit 3, the smallest, is seen as the command center of the other two pits, since there are less warriors and it seems like the headquarters.

because of the relative lack of damage to this pit (no scorch marks,
only partially destroyed), it was easier to excavate

the missing heads and an empty pit (#4) indicate that the full
scale of this tomb was not realized at the time of the
emperor's death,  and that many items were stolen and lost

In Pit 2, one can see the state they found the tomb in. They are not yet excavating most of this part because they haven't completed pit 1, and they also want to wait for better preservation techniques.

They dug out small sections to see what kind of warriors were in this one.  More complicated formations and detailed, more nuanced soldiers were found, like generals, archers and horses with saddles, which would have been rare at the time in China.

They found archers

This one is famous because he has a bit of the color preserved on him. Actually, all the warriors were painted, but once the paint comes in contact with the oxygen after being underground for so long, it rapidly disappears.

Color-painted Terracotta Warrior
originally colored, the  paint fades quickly. 
and generals were found. Pit 1 contained mostly lower ranked soldiers.

one of the few horses with saddles in the army. Most were
used for chariots 

an archer

the original state of the pits upon discovery.
Reconstruction on these has only started recently

The warriors were by far the most impressive and coolest thing we saw. It's amazing because it's still only like 1% of what is in the tomb, including the actual tomb of the emperor. Supposedly they've found it, but there are concerns for the body and relics inside (preservation wise) as well as the safety of the workers, since there is the possibility of mercury being in the tomb. Soil tests near the actual tomb indicate levels of mercury there, which may have been put there to simulate rivers, according to a translation of the texts found documenting the region. Near the tomb, other non military terracotta figures have been discovered, like acrobats and musicians, suggesting that the emperor basically attempted to recreate not only an army, but a more extensive representation of China at the time for his tomb.

It was awesome and I could have spent all day listening to facts about the site. We stopped at another part to see another prize of the area.

Nearby, smashed bronze chariots were also found and reconstructed over a period of about 80 years.

After spending a few hours at the tomb, we rested at the hotel a bit and went out to dinner, a fabulous fancy dumpling dinner and dance show with music and dances from the Tang Dynasty.

all the flavors and shapes. it was awesome

gotta document everything!!!

A few more pictures from my phone

In pit 1 with approx 6,000 soldiers

fun times. 

back to dinner

We saw a dance show too, and it was GORGEOUS. The costumes and music were fabulous, and the dances graceful and lovely.

The long ribbon sleeve dance

Young girls in spring dance

Mask dance to get rid of bad spirits and welcome in good fortune

One watching a bird, one a cicada and one thinking of her family.

The emperor's "fairy kindgom" dream, where he dream. He woke up from the dream and composed music based on it and asked his favorite concubine to make a dance to it.

A final, celebrating all the splendor dance.

It was a lot of dumplings and a lot of excitement, so we headed off to bed. 

Day 2

We thankfully had a late start, which allowed us to sleep in, shower, eat breakfast and pack at a leisurely pace. We didn't have a ton to do on our last day, so we met Jenny and headed off.

Our first stop was the Grand Mosque, as there's a relatively large Muslim population in Xi'an.

And then we looked around the streets. Jenny protected us from weirdos trying to get creeper pics by scolding them for not asking us if we wanted to be in pictures. I loved her.

On our way around the city, I took pics of the cool buildings.

We ate at a restaurant that serves food monks would eat, but they make it deliciously I guess. It was decent.

Next we headed to the Wild Goose Pagoda and temple.

a bell tower rung to start the day

the pagoda

the drum signals the end of the day I think

He had questions about Buddhism so he traveled back to India
to ask questions, study and learn.

He brought back scrolls in Sanskrit and translated them into Chinese

They also  had the story of Buddha carved in Jade
in the temple

Our last stop was the Shaanzi museum (Shaanzi is the province where Xi'an is located). They almost wouldn't let me in cause I had a selfie stick and they've had problems with stupid people using them in the cramped space of the museum. Who would do that?!?!?! 

This is the emperor responsible for the
Terracotta warriors

He's a high ranking official I think



a tomb guardian

definitely had different beauty standards

The foreigners all looked funny

apparently large ceramic armies were in vogue in china

We spent a little more than an hour in the museum, mostly because I don't care to look at years upon years' worth of pottery for ages. You've seen one neolithic exhibit, you've seen them all. We were also just tired and the manners and lack of personal space was finally getting to us. 

We headed to the airport early for our flight, said goodbye to Jenny, the coolest, best tour guide ever, then chilled there till our long journey home (involving an overnight layover). 

China was interesting, overwhelming, fun, exciting, amazing and more. There were rough parts for sure, but I'm so glad I could go and do things that some people have never even dreamed of getting the chance to see. I'm glad that, through us, a part of our family has been there, so that my parents could also see something amazing. Love you guys, thanks for helping us make this trip happen.

Now it's back to the grind, but I'll always remember that one time I got to spend a few days in CHINA~