Xian and the Soldiers
Xi'an Travel Blog› entry 5 of 7 › view all entries
Today was another optional day; but the option was to see the Terracotta soldiers of Xian, so how could I say no. Of course this means we had to wake up bright and early (before sunrise), in order to make the flight. The flights, both ways, were fine and it is interesting to note that the US is the only country that makes you take off your shoes, during security (I am sure everyone knows that here), and domestic flights in China has no liquid rules, once past security (This is important later on).
Once we arrived in Xian Airport we met the tour guide and bus driver here and left and headed to the tomb, which is away from Xian, so I am definitely returning here later. It is interesting to note that Qin’s tomb (the famous one) is just one of many and you can tell this by the miscellaneous hills located everywhere and it is amazing how much history there is in this area, +2000 years worth. As a side note, the mountain range is home to a large national park home to hundreds of panda bears. It is also interesting to note that Qin’s tomb has yet to be undiscovered, even by looters. This is because his actually tomb (not where the soldiers are) included a river of mercury, so the atmosphere inside is basically poisonous. Also the Chinese were not masters at preservation (like the Egyptians), so if uncovered the remains were quickly disintegrate.
Once we arrived at the tomb, it just looked like a big museum in the middle of nowhere but it was divided into three buildings, for the three tombs that were found. There are technically four; but the fourth one is empty, so not excavated. We visited them in reverse order, so to leave the biggest for the end. The first had all the bronze artifacts in them, which included 2 horse and wagons; but there are legends that there are at least four more that are not found or were stolen long ago. There is also a legend that there was a large bronze statue someplace that Emperor Qin made after he took all the weapons from the peasants; but that has yet to be found.
The next building we visited was the smaller tomb; but we also got to see some figures in display cases that were outside the pit, so easier to see.
We then took a break and had lunch on site, which was different than the previous places we ate at; but had some interesting features. The first is there were two different chiefs that were making two different noodle soups, with home-made noodles. The first was a flatter noodle, like fettuccine that was made from one big piece of dough and slivers were cut from it long-wise. The second is like spaghetti, which involves stretching and re-stretching, like the game “Cat’s Cradle.” The final point of interest is the drink cart, which had something called “Snake wine.” It comes in less than a shot, so I am unsure what the alcohol content is (if any) and it had a stronger taste then any liquor that I have tasted; but it still tasted like a hard liquor, although, I did not feel any side effects, at all.
Finally, we visited the last building, which I am glad was saved for last because it was amazing. There are no photos or TV specials that can give the scale justice. It is just amazing how much detail was put into every one of them. There are some more interesting facts about this building. First, there are some areas still underground; but those areas are used as “hospitals” for the terra cotta soldiers, where the excavators work on putting them together, with special glue. The glue disappears, when exposed to air, so there is no “leakage” glue between the broken pieces. Second, there are some areas where other people were buried after the emperor was “forgotten” about. Remember the emperor died more than 2000 years ago, so there was a lot of other people (farmers mostly) buried on top of the tombs, some of who can still be seen.
Our last stop was the gift shop, where there was an interesting movie that summarized the Qin dynasty and building of the tomb. Here you can also buy your own terra cotta soldiers, which is preferred since the cheaper soldiers sold by vendors are made from “less sanitary” means.
We then headed back to the airport, which is where I am going to end; but not before I mention a funny story.