Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Xi'An Terracotta Warriors

Today was our first full day in Xi'An and we joined an English speaking tour to see the Big Goose Pagoda, the Banpo Neolithic Village, and the Terracotta Warriors.  We normally would do this ourselves, but it was nice to get the history lesson and transportation in addition to all of the sights!

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda

This pagoda and surrounding temple were first build in the year 648 in the Tang Dynasty.  The story is that meat for the the sect of Buddhist monks that eats meat was running low, and the head monk prayed over the shortage of meat and a wild goose fell out of the sky as an answer to his prayers.  The pagoda was built on top of the body of this wild goose.

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The weather cooperated nicely, and the temple area was a very beautiful area.

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This woman was very insistent on getting a picture with Jack.  Jack happily obliged.

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Here is Old and New China!  Charming pagoda style houses with huge cranes in the background making way for new development.

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Some of the ornate decoration on the buildings...

Xian 008  In the temple area, a stove where one can burn their wishes.

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This little boy wasn't particularly religious.  His parents put him in that position to take a cute shot of him.

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Peter, Jack and I had to climb the 64 meter pagoda.  Sue stayed at the bottom with Sophie as it would have been too dangerous for her.  The stairs were very steep and there was no railing.  However there were thousands of people to fall upon as a cushion during this busy National Day holiday!

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More shots of the fabulous temple grounds...

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We stopped at a government owned yuan liberation station - also known as a Tourist Trap, where they have a license to make genuine terracotta soldier replicas and other things.  This woman is putting some decoration on a clay mold.

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... a peek inside the kiln after firing.  About 20% of them break, but don't worry, somehow they still seem to eek out a living!

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Some other beautiful pottery work they had there.

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This woman makes these beautiful clay dragons, painted and unpainted samples, below.

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This factory is also famous for its lacquer work.

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Some samples of their terracotta replicas - the biggest one, the Emperor goes for about $2000 US.

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Here are my own little warriors!

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Banpo Neolithic Museum

Not very photogenic, but it is an unearthed village that dates from between 4500 BC until 3750 BC.  There are some primitive examples of Chinese writing as well that indicate that the Chinese language is even older than expected; perhaps as much as 6,000 years old!Xian 052Xian 049Xian 051

So to interject some life into this part of the blog, here are some pics of the kids.

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I chased Sophie a lot on this stop as she wasn't that interested in looking at dirt and bones.  Go Figure!

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Lovely flowers outside of the Neolithic Village.

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The Terracotta Warriors

  In 1974, peasants digging a well uncovered perhaps the most major archaeological discovery of the 20th century - thousands of life-size terracotta soldiers and their horses in battle formation!

The first vault of these soldiers numbers at about 1200, with approximately 5000 more soldiers yet to be uncovered!  Apparently we are awaiting technology to improve enough where the colors painted on the warriors can be preserved.  Once exposed to air the colors fade over time as in the pictures below.

Xian 055 Xian 056The soldiers had been smashed to bits by previous dynasties hoping to hold power after emperor Qin Shi Huang had these created, so each one of these has been painstakingly put back together.  This is no small task, given that each soldier is unique.  Different body types, different faces, different military ranks!  You can see in the back of the picture to the left an area where some of the smashed soldiers still lay.  What a jigsaw puzzle!


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This Vault 1 houses 1200 lifesize soldiers - imagine 5 times more still buried!

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Some of the smashed soldiers still waiting to be put back together.

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... and here are some of the soldiers who are in the process of being rebuilt as their pieces are found.  Each soldier was originally holding a weapon, but those are currently in storage away from public view.  They were preserved so well that after 2000 years they were still sharp!

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While I shot some photos, Sue had the tough job of lugging around a sleeping Sophie.  I think she gains about 20 lbs when she is sleeping - she gets so heavy!  I would not be able to do all of this blog without Sue hold Sophie so much of the time while I'm taking pictures!

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This is pit 2 - an enormous room where soldiers have been unearthed but where they are waiting for better color preservation technology to unearth the whole army.

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This is one of the soldiers that was unearthed from pit 2, an archer.

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There is yet another section containing dancers, acrobats, etc. for Emperor Qin to enjoy in his afterlife, that has not been unearthed either.  In 10 years I think there will be much more to see here!

The firing of these terracotta warriors was also difficult due to their composition.  Their feet and heads were solid, while the walls of their bodies are only about 5cm thick - so firing them must have been difficult!


Catherine said...

Seems like you took the same city tour we did -though it appears you actually had some visibilty at the wild goose pagoda. Imagine hiking up there, and barely being able to see the bottom due to smog. Have you noticed anything really interesting about many the fire extinguishers over there? The most striking example was at the neolithic village when we were there. Beautifully painted with a fire breathing dragon... but that's not the part that struck me most. Did Peter and Jack notice?

Bob & Amy said...

Breathtaking! Such an exciting way to experience China... What a great opportunity you took with your week off. LOVED seeing the soldiers. So much history. Keep up the good work blogging, we are out here reading & absorbing every word. Love,
The Mahers