It was always going to be a good day, but when the hotel western offering was bacon, scramble type eggs and toast for breakfast it had the makings of a triumph!
The Terracotta Army was commissioned by the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s to form the guard to his Mausoleum about 1.5 kilometres away about 2,000 years ago. The site is about an hour from Xian City. It is anticipated that 8,000 terracotta warriors could ultimately be unearthed from the three burial pits in which they were found and that it is likely that 75,000 people worked at creating them. What I had not appreciated was that to date only one warrior was found whole, the rest and the terracotta horses found with them, were in pieces and that the wonderful pictures we see of them and the scene that we saw today are the result of the painstaking work that has taken place in piecing them together since they were found in 1974. Apparently a local farmer was trying to sink a new well when he found the first head.
It would appear that the Emperor Qin Shihuang was the first to rule he whole of China. His other claim to fame was that he was the one who started to build the Great Wall.
The first sight of the warriors, although the seem quite familiar from the pictures seen of them, is quite breathtaking. They are lined up as they would have been originally buried in long rows, four abreast. They are now housed in cavernous halls and you can walk all around the outside of the pits looking down on them as they peer steadfastly ahead. In the last hall the broken warriors. still lie buried under their mud covering. It is intended that these will remain covered until the technology is found to retain their colour. Those unearthed to date have lost their colours once they have been dug out of the ground.
I have wanted to see the Army for many years – missing them when they came to London – but they were well worth the wait! Sadly it is feared that they have not got sufficient funding to complete the excavation which is difficult to comprehend given the thousands of people who visit the site each day. What was interesting was the cosmopolitan profile of the tourists visiting the Terracotta Army – far more Europeans than we have seen since we arrived in China. It is easy to understand why the site is considered the 8th Wonder of the World and as such has a far wider international appeal
By way of contrast, Keith and I spent the afternoon wandering the barrow streets of the Muslim quarter of Xian City. Located inside the City walls, it is a noisy and colourful area of food stalls and occasional tourist gift shop with feel of the souk in Marrakesh. People jostled for space with scooters, bicycles, electric rickshaws and mountains of kebab sticks as the vendors various food offerings spilled over the pavement onto the road. It was great fun and I think where we will head for supper on Sunday evening.
As we had to get back for a Mongolian Hotpot meal, we took a rickshaws back to the hotel. Quicker than walking it might have been – restful on the nerves it was not.