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The Adventurer’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 11 Feb 2007

Location: Xi'an, China

MapThe Eighth Wonder of the World

Last night ended on a good note. Shared a dorm at the hostel with two girls from Australia, and a guy from England. Nice people. It was good to converse in the English language again and just chill out. I called it an early night and went to bed just after midnight. I was really looking forward to tomorrow's events...

Woke up bright and early, got my stuff together and checked out. Now, I'm not one who's into tours that much--I like going out on my own, but I made an exception this time because I was running short on time, so I signed up to go and see the Terra Cotta Warriors--the highlight of the whole tour.

We began by visiting a museum that contained relics from the Qin, Han, Zhou, Tang, and Ming Dynasties found in tombs. I cannot seem to keep these dynasties straight in terms of years, so here's a rundown:

Western Zhou: 1100-771 BC
Eastern Zhou: 770-221 BC
Qin: 221-207 BC
Han: 206 BC - AD220
Tang: AD 618-907
Ming: AD 1368-1644

Some cool stuff here, but not worth the visit if you're short on time. Our next stop was the hot springs. I couldn't figure out why we would be going to a hot springs in the middle of a tour--wouldn't it be better to do this after and relax?? It turns out it wasn't for public use, but a museum of the hot springs used by the emperors and their concubines. It's cool to see how this kind of thing was used way back when. After the museum we went for lunch and I ate a tasty chinese chicken noodle soup--just right. No tour in Asia (one of the reasons why I get so annoyed with them) is complete without a visit to some kind of store. They took us to a jade shop--there is no shortage of jade in China, I wouldn't have a problem finding it if I needed it, hence no need for this visit! It was a complete waste of time, but my only complaint about the tour. Finally, the moment we were all waiting for...

Imagine just going about your daily work in the field and coming across one of the most significant archaeological finds of the century. That's what happened to workers who were digging for wells. They pulled up from under the ground pieces of terra cotta. This was in the middle of a field where there was no indication of anything so massive and so old beneath the surface. Archaeologists unearthed this massive collection of terra cotta warriors, horses, chariots, most of them smashed. 2,000 years ago, there was this emperor called Qin, the first emperor of China and who China is named after. He became emperor at 22 years of age and built a tomb that was to be surrounded by this army of warriors so that he could be emperor in the afterlife, this army defending him. Qin died and there was a peasant rebellion when the peasants came in and burned and smashed all of these statues. They then became buried and disappeared from history until March, 1974 when the discovery was made. UNESCO has labeled it the Eighth Wonder of the World.

The museum is separated into three pits that contains the statues. This is truly amazing. The statues were beautifully painted originally, but time has worn off all the paint. They are still in the process of excavating and restoring, trying to piece back together what they can of the smashed statues. There are thousands of these things, and each was created with a different face--a spectacular work of craftsmenship. They are still excavating inside the pits and restoring what they've already excavated. I'm grateful I got to see it before it becomes fully restored--it's nice to see an archaeological work in progress--so you again get to see stuff that's been untouched for 2,000 years.

We had the opporunity, or should I say the insult of meeting the man behind the discovery, known as Farmer Young. You had to buy this book in order to have him sign anything, which I was senseless enough to do (having said that, it's full of the history and pictures of the terra cotta warriors, so it's a great memento). So I bought the book and took it up for him to sign. He wouldn't even look at me, would not respond to my hello (in chinese) and basically threw the book at me when he finished signing it! I think fame has gone to someone's head....'nuff said.

We were on to our last site, the tomb of Emperor Qin, located near the warriors. It's buried in a hill that looks like a mountain, but is in fact a tomb. Nice area for scenery, but you can't go in the tomb. No one knows what's inside as it hasn't been dug into--not sure why, maybe because there are rivers of mercury inside the hill (modern scientists have in fact detected this). Not only that, but according to history books, there are arrows set to automatically go off at anyone who tries to enter--sounds like something right from Indiana Jones, EH? That was the end of the tour. What an awesome day.

I'm now killing time until my train leaves. I'm on my way to Gansu province next. Taking the train to a city called Lanzhou, then hopping on a bus to a town (yes, a town, NOT a city) called Xiahe. It's supposed to be a great place to chill out, which is exactly what I plan to do. I've heard from anyone who's been there it's been the best place to visit in China. It's mostly inhabited by Tibetans and outside of Tibet, hosts the largest Tibetan monastery in the world. My IPOD is all charged up, so if I need to use it tonight, my battery won't die.

Sorry for the holdup on the pictures. I tried a couple of times, but the computers are incredibly slow here! I just don't have the time, so be patient.