Day 287 of 400: Terra-Cotta Warriors and Moslem St. – Xi’an, China

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Our morning started with a visit to the eighth wonder of the world…the Terra Cotta Army.  The 2200 year old life-size terra-cotta figures of warriors, horses and chariots were found buried east of Emperor Qinshihuang’s tomb in Xi’an.

There are three buildings, they look like huge warehouses and in each are the figures which are still being re-assembled today.  They took a satellite picture from space to see where the figures were buried to help uncover them as carefully as possible (there are still about 6000 more underground).  The very first piece was founded by a farmer who was digging a well on his property and suddenly dug into a few pieces of the terra-cotta figures.  We asked if the farmer was paid a large sum for being the first to uncover it, but were told no…the Chinese government did not pay him, but allowed him to not have to work anymore.

As we walked through the first and largest warehouse…we immediately saw below in the pit, thousands of soldiers all standing in formation…each one was different, no two soldiers were alike.  They looked as if they were about to march into battle with their uniforms on, drums in hand and some on horses.  Our guide explained these soldiers were built by hand by the people being ruled under Emperor Qinshihuang.  It took 720,000 people to build this army and over 37 years.  The army was a replica of the emperor’s kingdom and was made to protect him in the afterlife.  He had them built and placed east of where he was having his tomb built so that in the afterlife, the soldiers would fly towards his tomb, pick him up and fly with him protecting him during the day.

We took our time and many pictures admiring the detail that had been placed in their creation.  In the back of the first warehouse, we could see the area where archeologists are still digging and putting together the pieces they find.  Not only was this 2200 years ago when these were made, but at some point the underground army was found and destroyed…the figures were knocked over, broken and set on fire.  Putting the puzzle back together is very challenging and a slow process.

The second and third warehouses right next door to the first one were also big pits full of figures.  They seemed to be grouped together the way military would be, warehouse one held the soldiers, warehouse two held the infantry/Calvary and warehouse three held high-ranking officers and a war chariot.  Both the second and third were much further behind in having full figures put together,  but it was interesting to actually see the dirt with recognizable pieces sticking out…like a arm or head still needing to be carefully uncovered.  Once they have all the pieces, then they can begin to put them back together.

After looking at all the terra-cotta warriors, we went to lunch…yes, it was another touristy lunch, however they had two men making hand pulled noodles from scratch which was fun to watch and good to eat (see the video below).

In the evening we strolled around Moslem Street which is actually a large area full of street food vendors, local trinkets, and great people watching.  We had fun getting lost amongst the chaos, sounds and smells of the tiny streets.  We wanted to order some food but were told it wasn’t such a great idea, many of the vendors use old rotting meat and season it well…although the locals can handle it…tourists do get sick.  The only thing we ended up buying was a wheel of pressed tea.  The cost was cheap and it looked authentic and aged.  When we met back up with our guide. He took one look at it and said it is very cheap old tea…not the good stuff – oops.

We got back to our hotel to unwind and eat Chinese take-out before bed .

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