Thursday, 9 April 2009

Xi-an and the Terracotta Army

Xi-an is one of the 6 ancient capitals of China. 2600 years ago Emperor Qin Shi Huandi declared himself the King of all Emperors and became the first emperor to unify Chinas divided territories. He standardised written language and commissioned the construction of the great wall of China. At the age of 13 he ordered the construction of his tomb, a process that would take 40 years and would cover an area of 4sqkm. A third of the total Revenue of China was designated for the tomb. It is also during this period he ordered the construction of the Terracotta Army. An entire army consisting of infantry, cavalry, horses and archers were painstakingly hand crafted from Terracotta clay and then buried in battle formation . So far over 7000 life size, totally unique and individual warriors and horses have been uncovered buried 10 meters underground. Nobody knows the full story behind the warriors, but it is believed that Emperor Qin thought he could maintain his power and continue his reign in the afterlife. The warriors were buried and remained hidden from civilization for over 2000 years. In 1974 a group of 6 farmers were digging a well for water. During the dig they discovered fragments of the warriors by chance. After the reporting their findings to the local authorities a huge excavation project was undertaken. Now the Terracotta Army of one of the most coveted archaeological finds in the world. The farmers were each paid just 30Yuan for the land and their find. That’s £3. This money was paid to the leader of their local commune and they saw nothing of the staggering revenue this place has generated since. That’s communism for you.

Each warrior in the army was totally unique to every detail. Some are thin, some are fat, each has a slightly different face or facial expression, it really is quite astonishing the amount of time and work that went into this project, it beggars belief. Even though over 7000 have been uncovered, there are still many more believed to be buried. The warriors are to remain buried underground for perseveration, as Oxidisation via exposure to air causes the colours to erode which is why most of the ones you see are just grey and clay coloured.

One of the farmers who discovered the warriors was at the site signing books the day we were there. Here is a photo of him gleefully indicating the spot that he uncovered quite probably the eighth wonder of the world for which he received £3. Quite the poser back then wasn’t he?

These days he’s more of a recluse.

After the warriors we took a group bike ride around the city walls of Xi-an. The wall is 600 years old and is the only surviving city wall in China that is complete, in tact and has not been destroyed by war.

He‘s me attempting unsuccessfully to show off.

The Danish lads opted for a less comfortable but more hilarious vehicle. I've been getting on really well with Sorren and Espen. Could it be that Danish kids are more intellegent and atriculate than British kids as we seem to share a lot of common interets? It probably more likely that I still have the mentality of a 20 year old which is why its been easy to get on.

Later we found time to take in a water fountain light show at the site of the Giant Goose Pagoda, which was vibrant, colourful and just a little bit Vegas.

The Pagoda itself was beautiful and looked really lovely at night. Here are Andy and Cara who I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with since the beginning of the China tour. I think they have inadvertently and unwittingly adopted me as the token single travelling guy charity case. Both are from the Isle of Man , despite this they have been great fun and we‘re shared most of the highlights (of which there have been many).

Throughout the trip I seem to have been quite a hit amongst the Chinese gay community. I was approached on a boat and guy asked for my number and another incident whereby a guy whom I can only describe as the Chinese version of Don Johnston sat next to me on a bus and stared at me longingly. He then proceeded to take a little snooze on my shoulder.

Thankfully I was able to re-establish my heterosexuality within the group later in the bar.

Next stop….. Shanghai!

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