24 days away
180 km / 112 miles since last post
17,567 km / 10,916 miles total
This morning I opened my one and only birthday card - thanks Mark, Lorraine and Lily!
We met the others in the lobby at 8:30am and got into our hired minibus to take us to the Terracotta Warriors. These are the tourist highlight of Xi'an without a doubt, and it would take around an hour to get there.
Along the way we saw a lot of very sparse housing and a lot of building going on. (Stu note: I noticed a lot of people essentially moving dust from the road to the pavement with improvised brushes. The wind simply blew the dust back onto the road. What is the point? It seems as though there are some serious misdirected labour efforts going on here. Perhaps they should be cleaning the friggin' toilets or something more useful).
Once we arrived at the Terracotta Warriors site, we had to walk for about ten minutes to get to the pits where they were discovered. The pits are still in the same place but they have now built over the top so they are sheltered in a modern building.
The Terracotta Warriors were discovered in the early 1970's by a farmer who was digging for a well. As he dug through the earth he found some old pieces of pottery, and then soon found the face of a warrior and saw that it looked similar to himself.
The warriors themselves were built over 2000 years ago with intricate detail, fully painted and each carrying weapons. They were created by order of the first Emperor who wanted them to stand and protect his tomb after death. A fact which I was not aware of, was that during the Qing dynasty an uprising of people broke into the underground tomb, stole the warriors' weapons and created a fire which damaged the figures. Since their discovery in the 1970's they have been painstakingly excavated and put back together - a task which takes a great deal of time and effort.
When Bill Clinton came to visit the Terracotta Warriors as President back in the 1990's, he was due to meet the farmer who had discovered them. The farmer could not speak any English and so he was taught a few English phrases which he could use when talking to the President. The farmer found it difficult to remember these phrases however, which resulted in an amusing exchange when the President arrived and met him. Instead of asking the President "How are you?" he said "Who are you?", to which the President replied "I'm Bill Clinton, President of The United States". President Clinton then proceeded to introduce his family, and introduced his wife Hilary explaining that he was her husband, to which the farmer replied amusingly "Me too!". From this day onwards the farmer is most commonly referred to in China as Mr Me Too.
There are three pits with Terracotta Warriors inside, and the first one you look at is pit one. This pit is huge, and Ricky told us that there is probably around 7000 warriors and horses in this pit. Although a few hundred of them have been successfully excavated at the front of the pit, there are still many more sections yet to be fully excavated and reconstructed. We walked around this first pit to see both the completed warriors and the works in progress.
The next pit we saw was pit three. Pit one had contained many of the lower ranking soldiers, but here in pit three were the higher ranking officers and generals. This was a much smaller pit, essentially the size of a large apartment. Unlike in the first pit where all the soldiers faced forwards in one direction, here the soldiers faced each other, and at the front of the pit were some chariot horses. Only one side of the pit has been fully excavated and the soldiers put back together. The other side has been purposely left as it was found to indicate how broken up each of the warriors were when they were first discovered.
Around the edge of the pit they had some pictures on the wall to show that when the warriors were first found they had the original coloured paint on them which looked amazing and very realistic. Unfortunatley, the paint faded soon after excavation and now the warriors all look unpainted. What was amazing about seeing these pictures was not only the paint detail, but the texture detail as well. Each of the warriors has hair detail, fingernails, and treads on the bottom of their shoes. It goes to show what an incredible task was undertaken by the 700,000 workers who created these for the Emperor.
The last pit we saw was pit two. This was another large pit in an L-shape design. It had different sections for different types of warriors. The only excavated part of this pit was some of the far left area which contained the archers. The rest of this pit is still to be fully uncovered, though there were some small areas where you could see small broken body parts.
At one side of the pit they had three glass cases which contained the best preserved and pieced together warriors from this pit. One glass case contained a fully assembled archer, this being the most intact warrior found. Apparently only his feet were crushed and needed fixing. On his back he still had a small section of the original paint which had been preserved. Another glass case contained a high general who was wearing a special uniform which indicated the number of people he had killed. The third case showed another soldier and one of the horses.
It was amazing to see how much work they had done excavating the warriors, but it was clear to see they had much more work ahead of them.
Ricky told us that the Emperors actual tomb was about a mile from the site of the warriors pits and there had been talks about whether to open this tomb, as this would also contain many more of the warriors. However the decision made was to leave the tomb closed for the time being until the technology is available to properly excavate and preserve it's contents.
After seeing each of the pits we went inside the museum. This was quite interesting and displayed some more artefacts found underground.
We grabbed some lunch as there was a Subway on the site, then headed back to the minibus to return us to the hotel. (Stu note: the Subway had ran out of bread so we had to wait 20 minutes for them to cook some more. Major fail. I guess they took their eye off the ball with all of that pointless road sweeping). It was an interesting drive back. We couldn't take the same route that took us there as the traffic was totally backed up, and it was still slow going the other way. It seemed that most of the traffic was being held up by a guy whose chain had come off his bike - he was fixing it in the middle of the road!
Once back at the hotel we found our laundry had arrived. It was nice to have a big bundle of clean clothes once again, and the best part was that we didn't have to clean them! We did have to pay though, but I think our total bill between us was around �20, which isn't too bad for cleaning nearly all of our clothes.
We were supposed to meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30pm, but Jo, Stu and I were a little late. We had gone to the supermarket to stock up on food for tomorrow (for our day long train journey) and underestimated how long it would take to get through the checkout and walk back to the hotel. The number of people in the supermarket was crazy, and everyone just tries to push in front of you. (Stu note: add Barging to the list of Spitting, Squating and Snotting).
This evening we went to the restaurant next door to our hotel for our dumplings banquet dinner. This involved a first course of various cold vegetable dishes, which were very tasty, followed by some fried dumplings and then several courses of steamed dumplings. Most of them were really delicious and very filling. The only one most of us didn't like was the spicy chicken dumplings, but the rest were great. My favourite was the duck dumplings, which were even made into a duck shape. Some of the others reflected the shape of their ingredients too. There were walnut dumplings (very nice) shaped like a walnut, a chicken one kind of like a chicken shape, and a spicy cabbage one which looked like a cabbage. Very clever indeed! During one of the courses were were served some Chinese rice wine, which is served warm.
At the end of the meal, to my surprise, Ricky brought out a birthday cake and everyone sang 'Happy birthday'. The cake had my name written in icing on the top and was very tasty. A lovely end to a great meal and a really enjoyable birthday. (Stu note: Ricky brought out a cake which I had arranged - I'm not that heartless as to forget your birthday!).
Some of the group headed back to the Muslim markets after the meal, but Jo, Stu and I went back to our hotel room to listen to some music and have a couple of beers. We were feeling very full after our meal so it was nice to relax afterwards. Not a bad way to spend my birthday, seeing the Terracotta Warriors and have a huge dumplings banquet meal - really enjoyable.