Posts Tagged ‘Terracotta Army’

秦始皇 (Qin Shi Huang) was the first emperor of a unified China. Beginning in 221 BC, he governed the Seven Warring States of China as a single nation, began construction on the Great Wall, and started the first nation-wide road building project. He also outlawed and burned books, and buried opposing scholars alive to ensure the stability of his empire.

The Mausoleum

Perhaps one of his most famous contributions to history is his mausoleum, housing the Terracotta Army. With over 8,000 soldiers and 520 horses, this ceramic military force was meant to guard his passing into the afterlife. Constructed with the lives of over 700,000 workers, the Army now stands as a testament to the greatness and power of the first Chinese emperor. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s something that must be seen for those traveling into inland China.

Out of the many public museums and attractions that I’ve visited in China, the Terracotta Army is one that they’ve done correctly. Lines form in an orderly fashion to purchase tickets into the museum compound, and a continuous stream of trolleys bring you from the main entrance to the actual buildings. Tickets are 110 RMB (17 USD) a piece, though a US driver’s license can pass for a student ID under a cursory inspection, dropping the price to 50 RMB. An English-speaking tour guide for our group of 4 cost another 100 RMB, a bargain for two and a half hours of interesting information.

Pit 1, the main attraction

The main mausoleum site holds three pits about 5-7 meters deep, each with varying amounts of terracotta figures. Pit 1 holds the largest army, with 10 rows of soldiers stretching over 100 meters long. All the soldiers have been painstakingly reconstructed from thousands of fragments; such archaeological endeavors continue today. The soldiers are divided by rank (which can be identified by their hairstyles), as well as their positions. Archers, cavalry, and foot soldiers all stare up from the pit with lifeless eyes, ready at any moment to serve the emperor. The weapons they hold are also a testament to Chinese technology: swords were excavated with chromium plating 10 microns thick, holding their edge rust-free for over 2000 years.

Third Pit Entrance

Among the pits of soldiers, the graves of the workers have also been found. The slave labor used to construct the army were all buried alive upon completion of the project, speaking to the arrogance and ruthlessness of the Qin Emperor.

Countless soldiers

Though people line up nicely, that doesn’t mean that they don’t push. Even on a Monday morning, massive crowds of people inched their way through the exhibits, easily outnumbering the figurines they were gazing at. I can only imagine what it’s like during the weekend, as thousands more pour through the gates.

Less crowded than the visitors

If the A Night at the Museum franchise were to make a third sequel, they should do it here.

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