Monday, July 25, 2016

An Army of Clay

Ni hao!  Welcome to my journey down the Silk Road!  This year we were able to create a truly once in a lifetime trip for our week of travel.  We are retracing the steps of traders from long ago as we visit cities that were main trading hubs on the Silk Road!

We started at the center of the country in a city called Xi'an (pronounced she-on), which was the start of the Silk Road in China, making it the most eastern location on the Road.   Xi'an has history that dates back millions of years.  In fact we saw prehistoric human fossils in a museum that were over 1,500,000 years old.  Xi'an was also the location of China's capital for a nearly 2,300 years spanning across thirteen different dynasties.  With history like that, the city is sure to impress.

X'an is best known for the terra-cotta army.  This, of course, was at the top of my China list and I was so excited to finally check it off.  The story of the warriors dates back to the Qin Dynasty.  The emperor believed he would continue to rule in the afterlife, so he ordered nearly 700,000 slaves to build him an army to protect and rule by his side.  This infamous clay army features thousands and thousands of slightly larger than life size soldiers.  Each soldier was painstakingly hand made and modeled after actual soldiers in the emperor's real army.  It took nearly 37 years to complete from start to finish.

The site was actually found by a farmer.  One day, back in 1974, while trying to build a well he unearthed the head of one of soldiers.  Upon making this find, he immediately shared the site with the government and formal excavation began.   We actually met this farmer at the end of our visit!  The government pays him to meet people and sign books about the find.

There was a problem, though.  As they continued digging, what they found could almost be described as rubble.  In its heyday, the army was built in a protective building complete with a roof.  At one point in history, though, rebellious citizens who were still upset with the policies of the Qin Dynasty smashed and burned everything in sight.  Because of this, the archaeologists working on this project have endless work ahead.  It takes on average about 8 months to rebuild a warrior from the smashed pieces.  So much is yet to be discovered!

Take a look at some pristine examples of each type of warrior behind glass:

Cavalryman with Horse

Standing Archer

Kneeling Archer

High Ranking Official

Middle Ranking Officer

There is a flood or more information I could give you that I learned about this army, but at least you have the basics now.  The next big thing to happen in Xi'an will be the opening of Emperor Qin's tomb.  They know exactly where it is located an how to get inside.  The reason they are waiting to open tomb is because they are afraid the current level of preservation technology is not adequate enough fully preserve whatever artifacts are inside once they are exposed to the natural elements.  It is sure to be a big reveal whenever it does occur, though. Until then, we will just have to wait!

We only spent a short time in this city, but it created memories to last a lifetime :)

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