Friday, June 23, 2017

与勇士一起走 - Walking with the Warriors

Sculpture of dancing prince and princess
When I booked this trip I had only a few things on my ‘bucket list’ that I was going to check off and the Terracotta Warriors were one of them. However, the more I learned about the Xi’an area, the more excited I got to visit this city. When we arrived, it appeared that we were going to have some clear days, but that didn’t happen. As with Beijing, smog is a significant problem, and for all of the same reasons; the mountains never did make an appearance, but what we did see was jaw-dropping.

One of the most culturally significant archeological finds in China occurred in Xi’an long before the Terracotta Warriors were discovered. In 1953 a 6,500-year-old Banpo Neolithic
City wall
village was unearthed, then ten years later the Lantian Man was exhumed, showing that there was a viable community living in the area as early as 500,000 years before the present time. None of this is particularly surprising since Xi’an has been one of the political centers of China with the advent of the Zhou dynasty in the 11th century BC. However, it wasn’t until the Quin dynasty (221–206 BC) that China was unified and the first emperor was named. Just after Qin Shi Huang took the throne, he ordered the creation of his Terracotta Army and his mausoleum; but more about this archeological treasure trove in a minute. Xi’an continued to hold its position of power until 904 when fighting and/or natural disasters leveled the city forcing residents to move to the new capital. It wasn’t until the Ming dynasty required the construction of a new city wall in 1370 that Xi’an was repopulated and began to gather power, again.

There were several things I found odd about traveling in China, but the telling of time
Road to Emperor Qin's tomb
seemed at odds with common sense. Although there are four time zones, there is only one time. If it’s 4:00 PM on the shores of eastern China, it’s 4:00 PM on the border of western China, as well. Established in 1966, the Shaanxi Astronomical Observatory was named the site of the Geodetic Origin from which all time in China is determined. It is located in Lintong, a small town very near Xi’an. This has been the point of demarcation for Chinese Standard Time (CST) since 1986. And while this isn’t as impressive as the Terracotta Army, it has given me several things to ponder, especially in regards to working hours. I still don’t have any good answers.

Back to the reason we traveled to Xi’an – the Terracotta Army. This amazing set of statues was found by farmers digging a water well on March 29, 1974. Although there had been
Entryway to the Terracotta Warriors
reports of fragments of terracotta figures and pieces of masonry for years, the extent of what the farmers found spurred officials to investigate the site. What the officials saw so astonished them that the summoned Chinese archeologists to investigate. As they worked, it became apparent that there were many more pottery figures than any one had ever found in China. Pit one is the site of this first discover. It is more than 750 feet long and 200 feet wide. It holds more than 6,000 figures of the main army. Pit one is divided into 11 corridors that are paved with small bricks; at one time it had a wooden ceiling supported by large beams and posts. Once the Qui dynasty fell from power, the next emperor set fire to the ceiling of this pit and the falling logs crushed all of the warriors. What the archeologists found were smashed terracotta figures that they are still painstakingly reconstructing.

The reconstructed terracotta figures are life-sized – including the horses. The warriors are all around six feet tall with different styles of headdresses and/or hair. Supposedly all the faces are different and are meant to resemble men from all over China since this was a
One of the Terracotta Warriors
conscripted army. In general their faces are based on ten different shapes but some have facial hair, others have thinner cheeks, broader noses, and so forth. There were lots of artists working on these figures and they, as well as their assistants, left their chops somewhere on the body.  The heads were made by pressing clay into molds, then adding facial expressions by carving into the clay; clay was added to give the faces bigger noses, beards, heavy eyebrows and so forth. The arms and legs were made separately, as were the torsos. The bodies are hollow, and were originally put together with more clay. The warriors have different garb depending on what they are supposed to be doing. For instance, there are armored warriors and unarmored infantrymen; cavalrymen with pillbox hats and helmeted drivers of chariots with more armor protection as well as spear-carrying charioteers. The archers who are kneeling are armored but the standing archers are not; archers have their hair in a bun on the left top of their heads so that their topknot doesn’t interfere with drawing an arrow from the quiver; other soldiers have a bun on the right side of their heads. Clothing varies to match function and rank. There are warriors with shin pads, long or short pants, padded clothing, and an assortment of armor depending on rank, function, and their position in the formation. The warriors are facing in three directions away from the emperor’s tomb so to better know from where the attack might come, although the main body is facing a doorway that was probably where artisans entered to assemble the collection. There are also lots of horses in Pit 1 and all are pulling chariots. Sometimes it’s three horses, sometimes more. The chariots are long gone since they were made of wood. Also missing are the majority of the weapons. Evidently before destroying the warriors, their armament was stolen by Xiang Yu’s army.

Pit 2, which is substantially smaller than Pit 1, had the standing and kneeling archers, as well as lots more chariots. This was where archeologists found the middle level soldiers
Officers and chariot driver
(captains) along with some cavalry units with saddled horses. This pit is thought to represent Emperor Qin’s military guard. Pit 3 is the command post, with high-ranking officers and a war chariot. The generals, along with their council of war are facing each other as if discussing tactics. Some animal bones were discovered in this pit as if there had been an animal sacrifice to find out if the battle was to be won.

As other pits around the tomb have been excavated, more treasures have been found. In the museum that accompanies Pit 3 are examples of bronze carriages, terracotta figures of
Emperor's chariot
entertainers such as acrobats and strongmen. Initially, the figures were brightly painted with pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white and purple; their faces would have had a lacquer finish. Unfortunately, most of this color covering has flaked off or faded. The two bronze chariots we saw were smaller than actual size. One was for a general. This one had an umbrella that could be moved around to prevent the sun from shining in his eyes. The other was for the emperor so that he was completely enclosed but could see out through a window and talk to the person driving the chariot. No one said anything about who would handle the horses if the driver was killed; maybe the emperor would bail out of the back of the chariot to be picked up by some of his guards.

In the final blog about China I’ll review what we ate, places we stayed, and other things we did. I’ll also add some comments about shopping. 获取您的信用卡!

Cavalry officer
©2017 NearNormal Design and Production Studio - All rights including copyright of photographs and designs, as well as intellectual rights are reserved.