XI’AN: Day 148, Sunday May 04 2014

Today was the day we would see the terra-cotta warriors. Our tour guide was very friendly, but difficult to understand. We followed her onto the bus, where she explained some history on the warriors and the emperor who built them. He was the emperor that unified china, she told us, so he was a good emperor. He was also a crazy emperor. He had peoples limbs removed for minor crimes, and killed thousands of his workers (it is believed that he killed one for every warrior). This craziness may have stemmed from the fact that he was ingesting small amounts of mercury as he believed this would extend his life. Instead he died at 55 with his grand project unfinished.

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His tomb was no more the a mound on the ground. Inside he had sealed it with a moat of mercury. It is currently too toxic to open. Better tools are required to protect the excavator. The pits of terra-cotta warriors that had been opened were located in the area around his tomb. They expect to find more pits to come. The first was discovered by a farmer digging a well. He now sits in the souvenir shop like a trained monkey signing books. His farm was confiscated upon discovery and his entire village was uprooted. A first he was paid only 10 RMB for his find.

The tour guide chose my sister Karen, of all people, to pick on during our drive. Karen was sick, and not in the mood for answering the cheery questions posed to her. The poor tour guide just about lost her head!

We visited the pits in order of pit 2, pit 3, and finally pit 1.

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Pit 2 was mostly still in ruins. We were told that it would take another 60 years just to finish excavating pit 1 alone!

Pit 2 is famous for it’s kneeling archer. The only statue made of solid terracotta, and the only one that remained in tact on discovery.

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The emperor had gone to great length to keep his terra-cotta warrior, which he thought would bring him glory in the afterlife, a secret. Each terra-cotta warrior is thought to have had it’s own worker. When the body was complete work would begin on the head. It is thought that two workers were paired up and each would model the other’s face, which is what gives the warriors their eerily unique and human faces. When the faces were done, the workers would be killed to keep them from divulging the secret project to the world.

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The emperor suddenly died before his project was complete, and so in pit 3, the generals headquarters, many of the statues did not have heads. The generals were created last, and so when the emperor died work was abandoned, and the workers from the incomplete projects, supposedly went free.

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Pit one was the most spectacular. It was all infantry men and a few charioteers. Many statues here were still in ruins, but an impressive number were pieced together and stood in display as the emperor would have once had them placed.

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The chariots had been made of wood, and had burned when the rebels broke into the pits. They had rioted after the emperor died, and the pits had been raided since the weapons the warriors were buried with had been real.

We got to try the local biang biang noodles for lunch, named for the sound they made when being banged into shape. They’re name uses the character with the most brush stroke in the Chinese language! Seems pretty complex for a noodle if you ask me.

The tour included a free drink at the hostel. John and Nate got beers, while Karen got tea. I ordered a blueberry milk shake, that was more like blueberry flavoured milk.

There was a tense moment while waiting for the bus to the airport in a very long line. There was no way that we were all going to fit on one bus, which was taking its sweet time arriving. Fortunately two buses game at once. Crisis avoided!

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