Monday, September 12, 2005
Terra Cotta Warriors and more in Xi'an
Click here to see more photos in our alblum on Snapfish!
This past weekend, Troy and I went and saw a truely amazing site. If you have not heard of the Terra Cotta Warriors, I am more then certain that after seeing the pictures you will recognize it.
The Terra Cotta Warriors is located in Xi'an, China (pronounced she-ann) and is about a one hour flight west of Beijing. It is known as the greatest archeological find of the 20th century and has the title of "The 8th Wonder of the World!"
Terra Cotta Warriors
The story behind this find just floored me. In March, 1974, a farmer found broken pieces of pottery figurines while digging a well. He really didn't care what he had found, he was more intersted in selling the pieces at a local market. As he and local farmers continued digging the well, they carelessly threw the pottery fragments into a nearby field. Some villagers began collecting the bricks because it was supposedly beneficial to one's health if placed in a pillowcase. A Joe Blow guy in charge of water conservancy suggested that the pieces be taken to a nearby cultural center to see if they were worth any money. You can guess the rest of the story.
The part of the story that amazed me, is that if the farmer digging the well had dug about 3' in the opposite direction, he would have never stumbled upon the warriors. His well was basically at the corner of where the warriors were buried. Not smack in the middle of the 7000 terra cotta horses and armoured soldiers, but on the very edge of it.
As we're walking through I told Troy I couldn't even imagine what it would have been like to be one of the first few archeologists on site. To keep digging and digging and digging and to find more and more artifacts. I can't fathom the excitement and adrenaline! They originally thought the excavation would be done in a few months, but soon realized it would take several decades. We learned from our useless guide (more on her later) that they have stopped excavating because the archeologists don't know how to preserve what has been unearthed. I read an article not too long ago that if something isn't figured out how to preserve everything, the warriors could turn to charcoal in 100 years.
Only, a few hundred warriors have been restored along with some of the horse and bronze carts. But most are still buried or are still being excavated. At any given point you can see an arm, or face or butt of a horse sticking out of the dirt.
We also found out that the farmer was given nothing in return for his find or his land. "Yes, we know you have made the archeological find of the century, but you have to leave now. No, we won't give you more land to farm. No, we won't give you money. But if you want, when we build a museum here, you can come back and have your picture taken with guests (e.g. president Clinton). But you have to leave now. Ba-bye, see ya, adios!"
Our guide was pretty useless. Luckily we only paid her $12USD, but she didn't tell us anything we couldn't learn from the signs. In fact, she tried to hurry us through everything. We're in the pit with the warriors and she wanted us to leave out a back exit. As soon as she realized we were not following her, she started following us. When we would enter an exhibit to read the sign about what was inside, she would keep on walking. She would only come back when she realized no one was behind her. We found out later that she can only be in the gated area for 3 hours. After 3 hours, she has to get back to guide more tourists. We were with her 2.5 hours so I think she was on the verge of stressing out.
We bought a soldier that stands about 1.5' tall. We named him Carlos. He doesn't really look like a Carlos, but none of them really do.
The museums and pits are in a gated area. As we approached the gate, there is a visible track the gates are closed upon. On the other side of that track are these people with little terra cotta warriors in their hands yelling at you, wanting you to buy stuff from them. They physically were not allowed to cross that line, but they were all over us as soon as we crossed it.
There was a guy that wanted Troy to buy a box of 4 figurines for 1 Yuan which is like .10 (he started at 40Yuan)! I know you're sitting thinking "Hell I would buy anything for .10" and I agree with you, but buying that would have brought the dogs out. At one point I had two guys that kept cornering me. They would not leave me alone. I ended up pushing them and yelling "NOOOOOOOOOO!" at them. They got the hint really quick.
There were also several locals selling pomegranites. This must have been the season and the town must have been surrounded by pomegranite orchards because there were people everywhere selling them. All along the highway, spaced every 30' or so. We at first thought they were gigantic apples until we got closer.
There was one lady at the museum that wanted us to buy a piece of raw corn that was still in it's husk from her. Troy looks at her and says "Do I look like I'm dragging a BBQ around with me?"
The first evening there, we went to dinner in the Muslum Quarter. This is an area of town where a lot of Muslums live. I expected the residents here to be dressed significantly different from the other Chinese. But it was just another crazy Chinese neighborhood. The only difference from the other Chinese neighborhoods is that they served really good and spicy food here. Every restaurant had guys out front with dozens of skewers in their hand roasting lamb, chicken or beef on glowing red charcoals. There were also some resturants where they would hand make and pull noodles with these grills that spit flame through vents like furnaces. I personally have never eaten from street vendors, but I went to town here.
At the restaurant we ate at they didn't speak English and one waiter ignored Troy like he was the devil. So we did a lot of pointing at what other people were eating or Troy going into the restaurant to point out what we wanted. It was also the cheapest meal we have ever had. 10 skewers of beef, a big bowl of garlic vegetables, grilled dough bread, two big-ass beers: $4. That's it, $4!
Ancient City Wall
The next day, we rented bikes and rode them atop of the Ancient City Wall. This wall was built over 1500 years ago during the Ming Dynasty. It is the most complete city wall to survive in China as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. The bike ride was nothing special. Our hands and asses were raw when we finished because the bricks were bumpy and pocked marked. It took us about 2 hours to ride the whole way around. We really enjoyed it though.
College Boys in Muslim District
That night, we went back to the Muslum district. This time instead of walking we took a Tuk Tuk. Our driver ended up taking us through all these back streets that we would have never come across on our own. We really saw how the local Chinese people live. Because he was driving down such crowded streets, he was constantly laying on his horn. I thought at any minute Troy was going to lean over and pull the wire that connects the horn.
We went back to our favorite place for dinner. Not too long after we sat, a group of 6 college boys sat next to us. The one next to me struck up a conversation and we ended up talking to them for the next 2 hours. They were an interesting group of guys. They liked to talk to us about school, America and music. They shared their MP3 with us so we could listen to their favorite Michael Jackson song. I, in turn, had to share my Ipod with them and my favorite artists - Metallica and AC/DC. They didn't like the music so much!
I found out one of the guys (Alec) was a soldier and joined the military when he was 15. He told me after middle school everyone has to take a test. If you do really well you have a choice (really?) to go to what is considered West Point. He is a soldier for life!!!!!! I was trying to get an idea if he would have to fight when he was 40 so I was trying to ask him if China went to war in 20 years would he have to fight. I don't know if he thought I meant China in war against America because he responded "I don't think this is very good topic of conversation for dinner!"
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Wow, what a site. That must have been awesome! I have heard of this place on discovery channel. But I wonder how the government thinks they can promote people coming forward with their finds if their land is just taken with no reimbursement. “Let’s see, find of the century which will leave me no land or don’t tell anyone and keep my farm.”
...leave it to Shelly to innocently strike up a war between two nations without either government knowing... Just Joking! I'd love to go there someday (soon!). What a find!!