Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Today was another history-filled day as we left our hotel for the UNESCO World Heritage site the Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shihuang (Qin Shi Huang was the first Emperor of China). The Chinese have a habit of giving places very long, yet descriptive names!
Upon arrival, we went into the gift shop and met the farmer who discovered this archaeological site from 210 BC. He was selling books and signing them for us but the photograph cost $20 yuan! The unearthing of this amazing site occurred in 1974 and was one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century.

After seeing a "circle m
ovie" about the history of the creation of this necropolis and its discovery by a farmer digging a well, we proceeded to the exhibition halls where the excavations are actually taking place. Pretty remarkable! The figures vary in height (6 - 6 1/2 ft.), according to their role, the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,099 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. Many archeologists believe that there are many pits still waiting to be discovered. The Chinese government is postponing the excavation of additional sites until such time that they have figured out how to preserve the color on the statues that can be seen as they are unburied. After some time exposed to the air, these colors fade and all but disappear. Therefore, they will remain hidden. This is yet another amazing accomplishment of the Chinese. Seeing all of these statues makes one marvel at the capacity of the human mind and the extraordinary scope of human skill. It also makes one question the practice of "volunteer labor".

Qin, the 13 year old emperor that ordered his resting place to be built, demanded that every soldier have a different face. It is believed that they took molds of workers' faces and fashioned them after them. Archaeologists continue their daily work on the figures brushing, cleaning, measuring, entering data and preserving history. There were recreated statues on the site where we could take photos to appear that we were actually in the pit with the statues. Of course, we had to take advantage of this! Apparently, Queen Elizabeth was allowed to walk among the statues when she visited. I guess we didn't qualify...

We had a very special noontime meal today - a traditional dumpling lunch highlighting the commitment of the Chinese to art, beauty and symbolism even in the preparation and presentation of their food. Not only were they delicious, but they were incredible works of art, too! They were filled with chicken and pork, pumpkin and vegetables and, while all of our dumplings were not as ornate as others, they were all good to eat, fun to sample and enjoy.

We went back to the hotel for a bit of "down time" before heading out to dinner and the Tang Dynasty Show where we also had dinner. It was not served in the typical Chinese family style that we have become accustomed. Instead, it was a fixed menu served individually and it was delicious! We have all gotten very good with our chopsticks. However, when frustrated, tired, or just plain hungry the western style fork comes in pretty handy!

The Tang dynasty existed between June 618 through June of 907. It's capital was located in present day Xian, the most densely inhabited city in the world at the time, with a population of @ 50 million. It was during this time that Buddhism emerged as a major influence over Chinese culture and several inventions were made, including woodblock printing. The Tang Dynasty was an age of great literature, poetry and painting, as well. The Tang Dynasty Show was beautiful! It included traditional music, dances , and stories and some famous guy whose name I cannot remember! But I do have a photo! The costumes were breathtaking and, again, discipline was evident in all of the performances.

In the end... there is only so much fun one can have!

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