China Day 6 – The Terracotta Army

This was a day with a later start, up at 07:00 for a breakfast not as good as the one in Beijing, and out by 08:30. Again, if you didn’t want to go native there were choices, but it mostly limited to pastries and/or a cooked breakfast. The sausages and the croissants both tasted a little peculiar, but it could have just been a difference in ingredients to what we’re used to. Most of the food was overly greasy though and the orange juice was incredibly watered down.

The first stop was at the Shanxi Provincial History Museum. There was the prehistoric section and then galleries for the Chin, Han, and Tang dynasties. As it’s the museum for the entire province it does have some terracotta warriors, some of which are painted but kept in a temperature controlled environment. The place was pretty crowded with the typical pushing and shoving we’d come to expect from the tourists there.

Shaanxi Provincial Museum – Buddhism

One of the most impressive exhibits in the museum was the section on Buddhism – they had a massive selection of Buddhas forming a display in the corner of one of the exhibition halls.

Next was the Terracotta workshop where they demonstrated how replicas of the soldiers were made, and the same for lacquered furniture. There was of course plenty of opportunities to buy souvenirs and they offered 20% discount to the group. I bought a boxed set of terracotta soldiers for 200 yuan, down from 280. There was one person there who negotiated a necklace down to 150 from 680! At the time the conversion rate was about £1 for every 10 yuan, so obvious how good a saving that was.

A little later we then arrived at the Terracotta Army museum where we had dinner. It was the usual, but somehow it seemed better – maybe a case of getting used to the food. Though there was a little variation due to regional differences in cooking styles.

The Terracotta Army

Finally it was time to see the Terracotta Army of China’s first Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The unopened tomb of the Emperor is not far away from where the pits were made for the terracotta army at Mount Li, but it’s not something tourists get to see. All around the Xi’an area you can see similar burial mounds, though again our tour did not pass that close to any of these.

The now famous army was discovered by local farmers in 1974 when digging for water. When the army was discovered it was in ruins and had to be put back together piece by piece. It is believed that originally there would have been a roof over these figures made from wooden rafters and reed. The evidence there suggests that a fire caused the roof to collapse which is what caused the crushing of the figures in pit 1 and 2.

Terracotta General

There were further discoveries of more, though some have been reburied in order to preserve the paint as they found that it quickly faded on those that were unearthed originally.

From the restaurant it was about a 10 to 15 minute walk; we then started with pit 1, the first one they found and excavated. It is also the largest on public display and is inside a building resembling an aircraft hanger. It is important to note that tripods and flash photography is not allowed here, though the latter of these was commonly ignored without the guards being bothered in the slightest. The constant flashing of cameras was a little annoying as whilst none of them were powerful enough to have made a difference to their shots it does put you off.

Pit 2

There is a massive number of warriors in Pit 1 in varying levels of repair. As all of these were modelled by hand no two should be the same. I did get one guard indicate he wasn’t happy with me using my 150-500mm lens, but the others didn’t seem bothered by it and allowed it. I think it may have been that because the archaeologists are not allowed to be photographed they thought I may have been using a big lens to get around it. This was not the case though, I just wanted close-ups of the soldiers.

At the back of pit 1 there are more assembled warriors on a raised plateau making it easier to get close-ups of them. There is also an exit there to go on to pit 2 and 3. We were advised to do pit 3 first as we would other wise have to double-back and would waste time. In these other pits there is a lot less to see, and are quite a bit darker. The next building then has a series of galleries or other archaeological finds from there such as three golden horses and a chariot, which I believe were found in pit 2.

The cinema wasn’t great either – the octagonal room used four walls to project the image onto but it wasn’t dark enough in there and the film must have been made a few years after they opened in 1979. Amazingly they hadn’t updated the video since then, especially as some of it seemed out of sync with other parts of the video.

Golden Horses

We then got to the tea room before 16:00 to wait for the group and was back at the coach by 16:30 ready for a 1hr journey back to the hotel. It turned out we made good time and got back after 45 minutes. We did miss out the bell and drum tower but was told we’d try and do it the following day.

There was then a nice long break until we were picked up for dumpling dinner so attempted to exchange some money into yuan. This however did not go well as they wouldn’t accept the notes; apparently this was because a cashier in England had written on them. It’s pretty ridiculous though because half the notes in England have marks on them. We would have appreciated having been told this by VJV before travelling as we could have planned for this and made sure the bank provided unmarked notes.

Having ran out of time to try more notes we then headed on to the restaurant where we were served around 17 types of dumplings. Personally I thought the best of these was the spicy chicken which was a few after the sweet walnut and chocolate dumpling. This was the first meal not to serve rice of any kind, but did serve noodles. It was actually quite a nice dinner due to the variation, it just wasn’t that filling – it may have been more so if there had been fewer fish options. You could tell the restaurant specialised in dumplings due to the dumpling display on the way in.

Back at the hotel I tried again with changing money though this was again a little dubious. Two out of four were accepted – of the failed ones one had a pencil mark i later erased, and the other had a rubber stamp mark in one corner.

We then had plenty of time to pack ready for the next day’s flight to Guilin.

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