Thursday, 24 January 2008

Xi'an: Terracotta Warriors

I travelled 36 hours on the Lhasa Express from Tibet to Xi'an just for the sake of visiting the Terracotta Museum. And it was definitely a worthwhile trip.

The terracotta army was discovered by Farmer Yang and party in 1974 when they were digging a well in the village. This discovery changes the lives of many people in Xi'an as tourism boomed after that and brought prosperity. As my tour guide repeatedly said to me, the village used to be one of the poorest in China, but now things are very different. Of course, it is also one major discovery in the history of mankind, and many would agree that the terracotta army is indeed the true "Eighth wonder of the World".

* Farmer Yang now signs his autograph on the terracotta picture books at the museum. He hates being taken photo of and will shoo away anyone who tries to take a picture of him. Ha, too much fame already!

The site where the well was being dug.... where it all began.

About 6,000 - 7,000 terracotta warriors have been excavated to date. Yet that only represents 10% of the whole army!

So much left to be done. Look at the broken pieces lying by the side that are yet to be assembled.

General, archer, soldiers on display. Did you notice that their faces are all different?

2 of the most treasured pieces of exhibits at the museum. The carriages and horses are almost still complete.

I am truly amazed by what I saw at the terracotta museum, these treasures of over 2,000 years old created during Emperor Qin's reign in 200 B.C. Each of the warrior has a different face. As explained by my tour guide, the artists and craftsmen created the statues based on actual images of one another. And I am also fascinated by the amount of details on each statue; there are hairlines, palm lines, laces on the clothes, bows, etc...

History remembers Emperor Qin as a tyrant. Yet, he left behind some great legacy for China which people today simply awe at. The Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors are truly magnificent and personally, I think they are some of the greatest things I have ever seen in my life.

In my opinion, everyone has to see the terracotta warriors for themselves at least once in the lifetime. Believe me, you won't know what you are missing out on until you see them for yourself.

Archaeologists excavating at the site. I'm really impressed by the work they are doing, painstakingly putting together the broken pieces of the statues.

The original terracotta warriors were painted with colours. However, due to oxidisation, the colours faded away within minutes after the statues were being excavated. Here, we can still see some remaining colours on the statue (Link).

Travel tips: Charter a cab from Xi'an city to go to the Terracotta Warrior museum (slighly outskirt of town). You can get a cab for one whole day from as low as Rmb100 (I got mine at Rmb150 but I think it could go lower if I bargain harder). Any cab driver will be willing to do this, but you have to make sure that they get you there not too late after lunch because the museum closes at 4pm/5pm (I spent 2 over hours inside). My advice is to start early, so that you can visit the Emperor Qin Mausoleum along the way.

There are also various versions of the "official" Terracotta picture books on sale, some are cheaper than the others. To be on the safe side, I suggest buying from the official souvenir shop inside the museum as I cannot tell which are "pirated" copies. May cost slightly more in the official souvenir shop but at least you know it's genuine (and comes with autography of Farmer Yang as a bonus, ha!). Same goes for the terracotta figurines. They are more expensive (very much more expensive) inside the official shop as compared to those selling in other souvenir shops outside of the museum. I got a small army which I paid over S$100 for.

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