There’s this UNESCO journal called “The Courier”, which I rescued from a pile of trash long ago and which features, for its cover story, one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of our time –The Terracotta Warriors. The article was my first grasp to this famous “hardened” army. And this was long before the age of triple w or NatGeo or Discovery channel so as a kid, the story and the images thrilled me no end they echoed in my sleep.
Now, decades later, I’m thinking –as I watch the breathtaking lines of cypress trees on the country lanes leading to Lintong District, home of the Warriors –who would’ve thought this day would come.
The 45-minute ride from Weinan City to the site was momentary since I was busy
bragging briefing my seatmate as to my personal understanding about this famous discovery..ala David Attenborough: On this site in ’74, local farmers exploring for water, accidentally dug up an ancient “soldier” near the tomb of China’s First Emperor Qin. This triggered a massive areawide archaeological excavation which resulted in the unearthing of The Terracotta Warriors. 2,000 plus plus life-size pottery figures of ancient Chinese army together with their chariots, horses and other artifacts. To date, while the attraction hauls around two million tourists yearly, the excavation continues as the last of the warriors is yet to be unearthed. It’s a leave-no-man-below policy.
Imagine the economic impact of this tourist destination to the city of Xi’an (or probably the whole of Shaanxi Province).
So here I am now. Not viewing this on some wide-LCD-screen nor leafing through the pages of a glossy magazine.
Here. Now. Toe-to-toe with the Terracotta Warriors.
Pit No. 1. The order of battle for today: strictly no flashbulbs, no smoking and keep the voices down.
Two thousand plus warriors and no two figures are exactly the same.
Created to serve and protect China’s first Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. The warriors, in full battle formation in Pit No. 1 is actually a main body of army consisting of armored and unarmored infantrymen, standing and kneeling archers, cavalrymen, petty officers and commanders. (However, Prof. Liu Jiusheng of Shaanxi Normal University has a different and interesting theory here.)
All are armed to the teeth carrying REAL weapons with them such as spears, axes, swords, crossbows and arrows and other exquisite and mind-boggling weaponry.
Adjacent to Pit No. 1 is the smaller Pit #3 which is thought to be the warriors’ headquarters. The headless bodies typify the rampage of tomb robbers two millenia ago.
Just so I can share to my fellow visitors, the Terracotta Warriors are also exposed to elements equally dangerous as the tomb raiders: TOURISTS.
This site attracts thousands of tourists daily bringing with them foreign objects such as foods and other sources of litter that are organically based. These sources are prone to bacteria and mold, resulting in airborne corrosive flak which could have detrimental effects on the statues. In the end, the ultimate enemy of the Warriors is still — deterioration. Up to now, scientists hasn’t come up with a perfect formula that will protect these statues from corrosion.
Pit No. 2: An unfinished excavation and Warriors in glass chambers
One of the mystery surrounding the Terracotta Warriors is their color. Archaeologists agreed that the army was originally coated in multi-colored paints with no two figures painted alike. There are, in fact, a lot of mysteries as there are absurdities that were unearthed together with these ancient statues. For the more inquisitive minds, I suggest Prof. Lothar Ledderose’s comprehensive piece on the Terracotta Warriors: A Magic Army For The Emperor. Won’t be of help in deciphering the Warriors’ code but still a good read.
Coming to light now from the dark pits for some air and sun and finally to the Exhibition Hall of Ancient Weapons.
Bronze helmet unearthed from the tombs of Liulihe, Beijing 1030BC
Bronze bu (urn) unearthed from Nianzipo site, Changwu County in Shaanxi. Ca 1200BC
Oracle bone unearthed from south of Xiaotun, Henan Province
Bronze chariot and horses
TCW replicas at the souvenir shop. Should today’s scientists fail to come up with the best protection for the Terracotta Warriors, then maybe, the next generation tourists will have to settle for pirated Terracotta Warriors like these.
The Emperor’s mound.
With that I would like to leave this thank you note to my Indonesian friend Samektot (Hello Sam thanks for the batik too) for shooting the “messenger” here together with Chaudhary Muhammad Adil, my buddy from Pakistan and our lovely muse Ms. Yu Wei of Weinan City.
PARTING SHOT. Fascinated with cypress trees, as always.