Slideshow

Xi'an

June 20, 2011
Nihao,
Saturday, we had an early departure to see the famed Terra Cotta Warriors. We left early because our group is allowed special access before the museum opens to the general public.
The warriors were first discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well. Since then, the archaeological work has been, and is still, going on. When you walk into the first and biggest building (over 16,000 sq. meters), the scene is overwhelming. All together they estimate there are over 8,000 figures. In Pit 1, over 800 have been restored. This picture gives you some idea.

This pit contains 11 rows of warriors; mostly infantry here, but there are some archers and horsemen with their horses.  The place where the farmers happened to dig is in the front left corner of the first column. If they had dug 5 ft away in either direction this wonder might never have been discovered. It is below ground level for several reasons. One is that the emperor had it covered with wooden planks (the "walls" in between the columns of figures were used to hold the roofing timbers). So it actually was about 7 feet below ground level when it was constructed. Second, this area is near the Gobi desert (this is still a very dry region), so over the centuries blowing sand has raised the ground level about 10 feet. Indeed, during this long period, the timbers eventually were burned and there was periodic flooding. So nearly all of the figures were found in many pieces and had to be completely reconstructed.

The figures each stand on a base, so they are over 6 feet tall. There is some debate as to why this is so (since the real soldiers probably were not this big). Also, the horse statues look like ponies. The archaeologists have determined that this was the actual size of the horses in China at that time! One way they did this is because there are no stirrups (and everything else is realistic down to the minutest detail. (For example, the soles of the kneeling archers' shoes.). So this shows that the soldiers' feet almost reached the ground when they were riding. It was not until later that larger horses were brought in from Mongolia, and Arabians, and cross-bred that the horses were the size we are used to seeing today.

This huge army was the work of the first Qin ("Chin") Dynasty emperor in about 210 BC. He was the person who actually unified the country from a group of (often warring) states. The custom for the local "emperors" (war lords) prior to this one was to bury his army alive when he died so that they would be with him in the next life. But this emperor had lost so many men in battle that he wanted to reward (and spare) his remaining soldiers, so instead he ordered the creation of these clay figures. Originally, they were painted in the bright colors of their uniforms, but due to the fires, floods, and time, the colors are all but gone now.


Almost as impressive as the warriors themselves is the fact that they built these huge arched buildings right over the pits without bringing in any heavy equipment! This site is now second behind the Great Wall for most visited in China, and is the largest on-site museum in the world.

Next we were treated to a mega (13) course dumpling lunch!

Each table of 8 seats had a huge lazy susan in the center. When we went in there were plates of pickled baby cabbage (hot!), but luckily the beer was included and they kept our glasses full. Other first course appetizers were plates of crunchy sweet and sour meatballs (better than IKEA!), and a platter of sliced veal and mushrooms. Then the parade of steamed dumpling plates began.  (As a side note, many of the dumplings were twisted into interesting shapes--corresponding to their contents.  For instance, the chicken dumplings actually looked like chicks).  Here is the order of the dumpling parade.  We started with spicy chicken, moved on to lotus root with and pork (which some mistook as "locust" and pork), shaomai (dumpling filled with fried rice), yuan pao (more pork), sesame duck, pork with corn and fungus (mushroom), then a dumpling that had been colored with cocoa and filled with sweet walnut meats. Next, a fried dumpling arrived with lotus root and tofu followed by a chicken broth with several varieties of boiled dumplings (each the size of your fingernail).  According to the guide, the number of dumplings that landed in your bowl directly correspond to your likelihood of good luck, prosperity or longevity.  If you receive no dumplings at all, that is the best message.  We each received three dumplings--a sign of a good future (and more travel?).  The last course was a platter of fresh seasonal fruit (they are very big on watermelon). This meal was really wonderful except that many of us (one of your writers included) have begun to refer to themselves as "dumplings".... given our consumption over the past two weeks.


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More learnings and observations: Until about 15 years ago, only the very few elite could afford a car. So public transportation was (and still is) a major way for most people to get around. But increased prosperity has allowed more and more people to own and drive a car. So there are MILLIONS of inexperienced drivers in China! It is not as chaotic as in India, but there is still much disregard for traffic lights, lanes, right of way, etc. Speaking of which: we have been in many countries where pedestrians do not have the right of way. But we have always been told to walk confidently across the street, don't stop once you start, and don't look at the drivers; they will drive around you. And we have been successful (though mighty scared) following this advice. In China, this policy does not work! They will drive right over you!!! So we have seen many Chinese cross the street one lane at a time. Walk, wait, walk, wait, run for your life! Here in Xi'an there are many beautifully decorated (with flowers) pedestrian overpasses at some of the bigger (more dangerous) intersections.
Re the one-child policy: There have been some negative (and perhaps unexpected) results. First, males are more highly prized than females as they can earn more (in general) and have a higher chance for success. So many women chose to have an abortion when they found they were carrying a female, and to try again. As a result, there are now 20 million more males of marrying age than females! Also, tradition says that the children take care of their parents in their old age. But since each family (parents of the husband and wife) had only one child, these children must take care of BOTH sets of parents. And the parents are living longer. This has put a huge strain on many people's expenses and lifestyle. Also, if you have a government job and have a second child you are fired immediately. But for non-government people, you can have multiple children if you pay a fine: 20,000 Yuan for the 2nd (about $3,000), 30,000 Yuan for the third, and so on.

love,
wen-wen and way-way

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