Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 4 - Warriors, Walls and Triathlons

 Since we had all been waking up early, we decided to go for a morning swim before the day began.  The pool was oval shaped and not too long, but I managed to get in about 100 yards of actual swimming  along with our floating and splashing about.

Then it was back on the bus for the drive out to the Tomb of the first Emperor of China, Emperor Qin (pronounced Chin) and the famous Terra Cotta Warriors.

Even their road dividers have dragons...

Here we have a model of the tomb site.   The little buildings near the top of the photo are where we would spend our time.  The place has a fascinating history (click on the link above for the Wiki read).  They have not excavated the pyramid mound that is Qin's actual tomb, but they have done some tests like side scan radar, and they are pretty sure descriptions of it are accurate.  Like it has a map of China and Qin's coffin is afloat on a lake of mercury.

The pits themselves are housed under a giant Quonset hut shaped building.  There is no air conditioning because it would damage the warriors.  On the day we visited, it was running around the mid 90's outside.  The buildings were about ten degrees hotter.  But it was so very worth seeing.

The most remarkable and powerful thing to me was the warrior heads. 
Qin used almost 800,000 slave laborers to build the tomb.  Of these, about 8000 were artists and craftsmen devoted to constructing the warriors.
The warrior bodies were created using molds, so they are all uniform and without much variation.
But the artists making the heads used each other as models.  Creating a lasting remembrance of themselves as well as the army for their Emperor.
The finished warriors were painted to look lifelike and carefully placed and arranged in the tombs pits.
Then they were covered with logs, bamboo mats, and more terra cotta that was packed down to make a very solid roof.  You can see the blackened remains of the logs and bamboo here.

Sealed in, the army was ready to protect and serve the Emperor for all eternity.  Every one of the slaves was executed so that none would tell the secrets of the tombs.  So the heads became the death masks of the builders of the tomb.  It is their eyes that one looks into when you see the warriors.  They were looking across time, peering at us as much as we at them.  The irony is that we know what they looked like, but not Emperor Qin.

The army was complete with foot soldiers, archers, spear men, and cavalry.
Dad, of course, drew crowds wherever he went.  The obligatory photos followed.  We asked a girl at the wall who was getting her picture taken with us why everyone posed with their fingers making the "V'" sign.  She said it was because that's what Americans did.
Chinese 'V' fingers
American no 'V' fingers.
In the command pit were warriors dressed as generals and riding in a chariot of wood.  Which long ago rotted away.
Another remarkable thing were the crossbow warriors.
Why were these remarkable?  I'm glad you asked.  The crossbow was introduced to European battlefields around 1500.  But the Chinese were using crossbows during the time of Emperor Qin, who reigned back around 200 BC!  And records show that they were using crossbows two or three hundred years before that!

As we left the area, we could see the tomb mound in the distance.

Oh how I would have loved to go explore that!

Instead we drove to the Great Wall of Xian.  No relation to the Great Wall of China.  This wall is one of the best preserved city fortification walls from ancient times.  We went in through the West Gate.

Once again we were given less than an hour to explore, so a walk around the perimeter was out of the question.  But once we climbed to the top, we had a couple of options.  Most of the group took an electric cart ride around the perimeter.

Not we Shaffer men though.  There was a place renting bicycles!  Dad had been riding for months to get his legs ready for the trip, and I had been riding all summer to do the triathlon.  So we rented bikes to ride around the wall!

The bikes were in rough shape.  I mean rough!  Jason traded bikes with Dad because his was the only seat that was high enough to pedal properly.  My bike had two flat tires.  All of them had very questionable brakes.  But we rode...
And rode...
And rode!
We got back to the starting point before all of the others on the cart, so we had a chance to look around the West Gate fort, which had been converted into a gift shop.  Dad got to pose with a warrior replica.
Jason and I went up to the top and looked out the archer windows.  We also got into a conversation with a couple of the workers who spoke some Italian, which Jason and I are much more fluent in than Chinese!  Jason especially.  We didn't realize how long we had been there until Jimmy called up to us to let us know that the bus was loading and waiting for us!  So we ran down to the wall, ran over to the stairs and ran down to the bus!

I realized then that I had done a very sporadic, very short, and very relaxed triathlon by swimming in the morning and biking and running that afternoon!  
Our hotel room.

The Warriors were one of my favorite things on the trip.  I would definitely go see them again if I had the chance.

More Later

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