Thursday, January 16, 2014

Weekend Travels: Xi'an Part 1…Terra-cotta Warriors and History of the City

This week for my students are finals, so I managed to get someone to cover a class for me and escape from Friday-Tuesday to Xi'an.

Xi'an was about 1.5 hours by plane from Jinan (which is located southeast of Beijing) 

It used to be the capital of China years and years ago so it is full of history--I learned more about China's history in this trip than I have the last 1.5 years here. 

One of the reasons that Xi'an is known internationally is because of the terra-cotta warriors which where accidentally discovered only 35 years ago. 

The terra-cotta warriors were found as part of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's grave. It is believed that there are 8000 warriors all together--all facing east and ready to fight. 

This Emperor is famous because he ended the warring states period, greatly expanded China, and was the first person to begin to unify china's economy and politics back around 220 BC--he's also famous for being an evil brutal Emperor with many slaves 

The sight is still in the process of being excavated but I think there are a lot of things that could be added to this historical site and popular tourist destination 

This is a picture of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's actual burial site (he died from ingesting Mercury pills)--in that mound. It will be opened in a few years and there is believed to be a lot of valuables and rivers of Mercury down there. It is also believed that it was probably looted so many of the valuables were stolen 

Part of his burial site is three chambers of terra-cotta warriors. This is pit #3--no warriors are fully assembled here. You can see pieces of them everywhere--archeologists are working on putting all of the pieces together

You can also see the black marks--this is because the next dynasty--the Han looted the grave to steel bronze weapons and tried to burn it. 

There are four different kinds of warriors--infantry men, generals, archers, and …? There are two different kinds of horses--Mongolian horses and Chinese horses 
(which shows the impact of the beginning of the Silk Road--one of the reasons China looked West was for better horses)

As I mentioned before, there is believed to be 8000 warriors all together. The warriors are made out of terra-cotta clay and and had to be baked in a kiln to bake--it took 7 days to make each one. It is believed about 700,000 men constructed all of the terra-cotta soldiers 

You can see from this picture the incredible amount of detail that each warrior has--you can't see the picture very well but on the bottom of this mans shoe there are nails in it--so you can tell he was married since his wife made his shoe. 

You can tell the generals from the others because they have a beer belly and their shoes point up

Below is pit #2 this is believed to be a command center because most of the warriors are generals and there are not very many of them. 

And finally onto pit #1--the largest pit (almost 2 football fields long) 

Full of terra-cotta warriors--each one with different faces and all ready for battle. 

When they were originally buried they all held bronze weapons

In the picture below in pit #1 you can see where archeologists are currently working

(they work from 6-midnight after the touring hours end)

Each warrior's legs are solid but their body and heads are hollow 

This was as close as we could get to them…kind of disappointing. 

Not to mention one of the people in my tour group was there in 2007 and said it looked pretty much the same. 

Overall it was really cool to see and crazy to think one Emperor could really think it was necessary to have so many warriors buried with him and how many servants/slaves must have been involved in making these--the facial expressions and detailing on each warrior is insane. (its believed that the servants/slaves were buried alive with the terra-cotta warriors) 

However there was NO opportunity to get up close to the warriors and very little information unless you went with a tour guide or got an audio guide--even going with a tour guide was a little disappointing. (I liked the small display at the History Museum much more, see below)

The inner city of Xi'an is shaped like a square and surrounded by city walls that are still in tact. 

They are the oldest and best preserved city walls anywhere in china. 

The wall was build in the 1300's by the Ming Dynasty (the same dynasty that built the Great Wall of China) 

You can walk all around the walls (13 kilometers all together) 

There are 4 gates; North, South, East, West 

And many watch towers

I almost made it around the entire wall, which allowed me to see all around the inner city of Xi'an 

This is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery 

While Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism were all prevalent religions before the Cultural Revolution Communist party took over, Buddhism is most prevalent in Xi'an due to early dynasties and the fact that it is the start and end of the Silk Road 

Early dynasties also wanted to communicate and cooperate with other cultures; they thought the Tibetan Monastery would show that. Also a Princess (of the Tang Dynasty I believe) married a Tibetan man to better their relations    

As you know from the "warring states period" and the conquering of one dynasty after the other, China was a place of constant warfare and conflict--it is extremely interesting to see how the cities and dynasties defended themselves

The gates all had an enclosure used to trap the enemy 

Each building differed in its roof structure which symbolized the hierarchy of the building 

(Wish i had a clue what this said…)

Walking around the city walls was neat too because I got a much better picture of what ALL of the city was like--not just the highly developed main streets full of western shopping malls, mcdonalds, and subways. 

This is what much of the area near the wall looked like on the outskirts of the city

Outside of the city walls is the Big Goose Pagoda 

This was built during the Tang dynasty (600 BC--the most powerful dynasty and height of Xi'an) as a place to put Buddhist statues and relics in that came from India on the Silk Road

After an earthquake it was rebuilt in the 1700s 

I always wonder if these people actually identify as Buddhist or if they are just getting/giving a blessing

I just can't bring myself to do it because i don't know what it means

A view from the top of the Pagoda 

Some Buddhist relics 

You can tell that this building was renovated/rebuilt during the Ming dynasty because of these little figures (led be a man riding a phenix and ending with an imperial dragon) on the roof--which are also seen at the Forbidden City  

The LAST historical site was the museum which was outside the city walls right near Big Goose Pagoda 

It chronicled the history of China, focusing around Xi'an

The Bronze age--so many of these important tools were made to hold wine or to share wine

A burial site--I think this was from the Zhou Dynasty (1000 BC-220 BC) 

The terra-cotta warriors--this gave me an opportunity to see a few up close 

Emperor Qin 

A mural of all the different facial expressions

The warrior is unique because it is the only one with a green face. Most historians believe that they ran out of paint so had to make his face green

The only sitting terra-cotta warrior 

This was from the warring states period--so many weapons! these were spread on the ground to hurt horses

During the Silk Road camels were of high value

A Buddhist statue

I have a lot more to learn about China--and am very interesting in the evolution of religion and the beliefs people held before the cultural revolution

Next post--the rest of Xi'an! 

1 comment:

  1. Love to learn all about the history of this s=city and to see the Terra Cotta Warriors!