Terra Cotta Soldiers in XiíAn

From the Diary from China -- Thursday, August 11, 2005


Excerpted from the Diary: We saw a little panoramic movie (projected 360 degrees around us) illustrating the battles of warriors and their leader, who became the first emperor in all of China more than 2,000 years ago! After he had conquered all of China, he began a reign that lasted more than 50 years (imagine how long these guys live! He must have been at least 80 when he died, or he somehow became military leader in his early 20's). He immediately ordered the building of his tomb. It took them 4 decades to complete, and included THOUSANDS of these terra cotta soldiers, some chariots drawn by horses, archers, all lined up in battle formation in large dugouts with wooden roofs covered with fabric and sod.
[Photo above]: Stephan consults his dictionary to read the Chinese text. Poster shows groups of people visiting the museum,
including soldiers, a blind person feeling the face of one of the terra cotta soldiers, and children with disabilities.

Excerpted from the Diary: Later, when the descendants of this emperor were defeated, the rebels broke into the tomb and burned the wagons and anything else made of wood, and knocked down a lot of the soldiers to destroy them, and covered them all with dirt.

I said to Stephan that itís incredible that something as momentous as this project could ever be forgotten, but thatís what happened. Do people initially tell their children about the huge army of statues that are standing below the ground, and after a while it becomes a myth, and then the stories stop? Anyway, by 1974 no one knew anything about these guys, and several farmers were digging a well and OH! They found a head from one of the soldiers!

Excerpted from the Diary: Well, now three separate "pits" are being excavated, the largest being about the size of a football field, and the smallest, which they think was the command center, had less than 100 warriors. The mid-sized one was about half a football field, much of it is dug down to the tops of the soldiers and I wondered why those soldiers hadnít been uncovered too.

Then we saw the archeological team at work -- less than a dozen people in one of the rows, a lot of them discussing things, only one or two actually working on uncovering the warriors. At that rate, theyíll have a job for the next 50 years! One of the plaques in the nearby museum explained that they only allow workers who have proven themselves to be outstanding experts in this field AND who are of good moral character. I wonder if thatís why so few were working there on this weekday, though I would think that after all these years, the number of experts of good moral character (most of the people Iíve met here in China seem to be of great moral character!) would be quite large, and at $11 / person for entrance fee (that buys about $100 worth of goods here in China!) and MANY hundreds of people pouring into there every day all year long, there must be enough money to hire more people.
[Photo above]: Between the soldiers are rows which have not yet been excavated, where presumably there are
more soldiers below roofs made of logs (the shape of the logs is revealed below the dirt).

Excerpted from the Diary: Anyway, I digress. It was indeed a thrill to see these terra cotta guys. Each one has a different face, they all seemed to be kind of smiling benevolently, I found their expressions to be somehow ... I donít know, it really attracted me, made me feel ... good, I donít know how to explain it. I was able to stand about 20 feet from one section of them, and I was indeed thrilled, and enjoyed looking at each of their faces. Eerie, and cool!

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