August 28, 2009
It's not all that easy to get to Xi'an, in the heart of China, when you are in Beijing or Shanghai, but since we have a day, we are off to see one of the great wonders of the world - one that man built 2,300 years ago but just discovered during my adult lifetime.
Situated geographically in north central China, Xi'an is ranked among the great historic centers of the world. From its early role in Chinese civilization as the center for the first empire from which "Qin" (I pronounce "chin") gave the West the concept of "China," this gateway to the fabled Silk Road also was the largest and most cosmopolitan city on earth during the golden ages of the Han and the Tang.
My geography of China is pretty basic but the way I think of it on the map is that the borders of China are the silhouette of a rooster - the head to the right and the tail to the left with two feet extending below. The two feet are the islands of Taiwan and Hainan. Beijing is located in the throat of the rooster and Xi'an is the heart. China has had a total of 19 dynasties (I think). Xi'an served as the capital of China for 1,100 years; it has been a city for 3,100 years. The four main dynasties while it was the capital, and probably the most significant four of all since they were so fundamental to establishing Chinese culture was the Zhou (I pronounce "Joe"), the Qin (the ‘chin"), the Han (the "hand") and the Tang (the "tongue") dynasties - sorry but this is the only way I can remember the names and come close to pronouncing them.
We spent the day in Xi'an, the whole purpose of which was to visit the famed terracotta warriors, one of the true wonders of the world. What amazes me is that this stunning archeological find occurred the same year I graduated from college. (What will be found next?). The buried army of Qin Shi Huangdi is one of the largest and most stunning archaeological finds of the 20th century. Discovered in 1974 by a farmer (farmer Young - we actually met one of the other 4 "founding" or "discovering farmers" at the museum), the warriors and horses have earned the distinction of being one of the Wonders of the World, deservedly so. The full-size terracotta army (so far over 1,000 have been excavated - of an estimated 8,000 that are believed to exist at the site) testify to the imagination and ingenuity of man and his commitment to be protected in afterlife. What you see when you visit is three buildings (one the size o fan aircraft hangar) that have been constructed over the sites that are being excavated - you see a stunning display of life-size sculptured warriors and horses. Pretty unbelievable and hard to describe.
The emperor had constructed an army of warriors to protect him in the afterlife. We were told 720,000 people spent 38 years constructing the 8,000 terracotta soldiers and horses. At the end of the project, all of the workers were sacrificed (killed) o that no one would know of the project - mass graves were found later. The terracotta soldiers were left as standing armies in large pits, with a ceiling constructed above them, and then 20 meters of earth placed on the ceiling (all beneath ground level) to hide the entire operation under the farmland That is why it took 2,300 years to find them. These warriors with their horses stand in these pits in battle-ready position, fully armed, battalion after battalion over several acres. At the time of the discovery back in 1974 Newsweek magazine described the eerie and monumental find as "the clay clones of an 8,000 man army."
That's as well as I can do describing the site. Karyn and Bryan and the rest all loved it. Add it to your bucket list.
Now we are off to Hong Kong.