Before I’ve even typed the first sentence, I know I’m going to need more than one post to fully describe the visit to “Terra-cotta Warrior and Horses Museum,” which is what one of the entrance signs proclaimed.
The walk in (and out) is a long one, even if you opt for the ONE WAY cart to initially get you closer to the multiple buildings of this World Heritage Site.
Our guide in Xi’an has been on this tour upwards of 600 times in the past 12 years, sometimes coming here three times in one week. I’d probably go batty, but he remembers that this is our ONLY visit of a lifetime, and gives us plenty of “insider information” about this area.
On the signboards lining the walkway (hiding the ongoing construction), he stopped to point out that we’ll see soldiers in generally one of three poses. The ones standing, with hands apart, are most likely foot soldiers, and their hands were positioned to hold swords, spears, and battleaxes. The ones with hands together are “charioteers” and they are posed to hold the reins.
The soldiers who are kneeling are archers. Their hair topknots indicate if they are right or left-handed, as they had quivers on their backs, and had to reach up and over their shoulders to pull out another arrow, and the hair could not be in the way of their efficiency.
In 2007, it was estimated that the three pits containing Qin Shi Huang’s army hold more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots (with 520 horses), and 150 cavalry horses. Many of these remain buried, and there is a plan in place for limited excavation each year.
*Emperor Qin was obsessed with death. He had the army created so that he could rule the afterlife. His tomb was “hermetically sealed” and is about the size of a football field. It has never been opened, due to concerns on how to best preserve the artifacts.
*The colors on the clay begin fading and the pottery itself starts flaking as soon as they are brought to light. In as little as 15 seconds the lacquer covering the paint can begin to curl, and it will flake off in less than four minutes once exposed to the dry air.
In Part II, I’ll back off the historical stuff and share my feelings and impressions of this amazing never-to-be-forgotten experience, along with a plethora of pictures of the actual excavation pits!