Xi’An Terracotta Warriors, 2012

The Terra Cotta Warriors “兵馬俑” [bing ma yong] were a good 2-hour drive from the restaurant. When we got there it was midday and packed. Tourists everywhere. Mostly European, which was surprising to me. Many groups were French, like it was when we were at the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang.

There are 4 pits open to the public. Pit 1 has the majority of the terracotta army, which consists of 6,000 figures. No two soldiers are alike; each figure has unique facial features and expressions and build, with even slight differences in stance and pose. Amazing. Qin Shi Huang “秦始皇”, who was the first emperor of China, began building this entirely man-made necropolis for himself right after he ascended to the throne.

Most of the figures you see were actually pieced together by volunteers and/or employees of the Chinese government. When the tomb was first discovered, most of the figurines were destroyed and shattered into a bajillion pieces. A resident Terracotta Army expert explained to us that because Qin Shi Huang had wronged and killed so many people, when local farmers discovered his tomb, they ransacked the hell out of it in revenge. Fires were purposely lit to burn and ruin as many things as possible. Valuable pieces were smashed.

All the beautifully-sculpted soldiers you see are results of mind-bogglingly meticulous and tedious work that has been going on for decades.

This is pit 2. As you can see, most of the corridors still haven’t been fully excavated. Pit 2, however, is where you can see up-close some of the most spectacular warriors and horses. All of the 10,000+ soldiers and horses were made through an assembly line production. Moreover, all are precisely placed according to each soldier’s military rank and duty.

The detail was stunning. All terracotta soldiers were originally hand-painted with a myriad of colours: pink, red, green, blue, brown, black, white, and lilac. Unfortunately, the colours have faded with time. Some of the red, lilac, and green were still evident on the archer (on the left), especially in the back, where you can see the “string” used to “tie” his armor together.

The chariot took the cake though. The harnesses, the wheels, the painted horses, the rider, and the chariot itself were breathtaking to see in person and up close. Even more amazing was the fact that every piece was life-sized.  And though it’s a bit dark so you can’t really see it, the umbrella covering the rider was spectacular. It was like one of those beautiful, paper umbrellas you sometimes see geishas carrying in pictures, but made from bronze. All the hundreds of folds in the umbrella and the framework holding it up were simply impeccable.

After visiting the terracotta warriors we headed to our hotel. Ah, such a sweet change from the uncomfortable nights on the train! 

A view of Xi’An from the bus. We passed by several tombs of Chinese emperors on the way back. Our tour guide talked about the huge gender gap in China. Chinese culture (or rather, most Asian cultures) is one that is “重男輕女” [zhong nan qing nu]: there is heavy preference towards giving birth to sons as opposed to daughters. The one-child policy in China meant that a lot of families who had daughters ended up abandoning or aborting them. Karma is definitely taking its turn now that China has a serious shortage of women. There are about 3-4x’s as many males as there are females in China.

Chinese women’s position in society has also been elevated because of access to higher education and better jobs. Women are now are in this unprecedented position of being valued over boys. Women used to have to take whatever they could get in terms of suitors; now they can afford to be über picky about whom they choose to date. The tour guide joked that single Chinese women all require future/potential husbands and/or boyfriends to have the every single one of the following: handsome, smart, rich, loyal, truthful, has a car and home, has a stable job, can’t smoke or drink, well-educated, and above all, obedient.

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