31. The Terracotta Army

Hi guys,

These last few weeks I think you have been starved of crashingabike, but I have a heck of an excuse… My parents were in town, and I was getting on with some travelling. So, for the next little while, I’ll tell you about that, OK? If it’s not, now would be a good time to leave. A quick apology, however, and the news isn’t great for Apple, as they have all come off my iPad! Apologies to all.

One of our stops was in Xian, home of the Terracotta army. Little intro needed really.
After having been fortunate enough to see an exhibition of these sometime last year, I felt that I had some grasp on the situation as we entered into the imaginatively named Pit 1, home to the unearthed Eighth Wonder of the World. I wasn’t. By a long way. The scale of the place is simply astonishing.

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Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who achieved a unified China for the first time in its history in his short reign, set about a plan so barmy that it makes Despicable Me’s minions seem plausible. Reigning supreme over all China after destroying one by one the other nation states that lay in his path, Emperor Qin Shi Huang had a fear, which grew into an obsession- death. It is known that during his lifetime he always took huge a escort of men and carriages wherever he went, often sending several other duplicates so that no one knew exactly where he was at any time. In fact, as part of this personal bodyguard, it is said that only the most skilled soldiers were taken, the most skilled of which drove the carriage that bore him, in case of surprise ambush. His doctors prescribed him mercury, thought at the time to prolong life, seen as an eternal metal, which debilitated his health no end. From an early age, he planned his own path into the afterlife, with thoughts turning to what he needed. What followed is truly astonishing.

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Consideration into what he needed was thorough, which centre stage seemingly taken by his overriding obsessions- eternal power and protection of himself. Therefore, he would need an Army. The piece-by-piece hand-made warriors stare out across the empire in battle formation, poised to come to the defence of the emperor at a moment’s notice. The detail in each one attempts to tell of the unthinkable amount of labour involved, especially details such as each owning a unique face. Using mainly prisoners among the skilled craftsmen, the 700,000-strong labour force was split into groups, with quotas to fill each day. It isn’t possible to say how many perished during construction, but it has to be in the thousands, especially considering some of these facts:

-in order for no one to know the precise burial site, all of the people present at the burial were reportedly slain

-if quotas weren’t met, the whole work party was executed

-during the building of the tomb, if any worker refused to work or didn’t show up, not only was his family killed, but so were those assigned to his work group

-human remains have been found regularly during the excavation process, as well as bones of horses and other treasured animals to the emperor

A lesser-known fact about the warriors is that they were coloured and they were painted according to rank. Regrettably, the early phases of the excavation were ill prepared, owing to a lack of expectation to the size of the operation. By consequence, some were damaged and the pigments instantly came off on contact with the air. Future excavations have pledged to take more time and consideration into how they can preserve them as best they can, leading to an inevitable decrease in progress.

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What is perhaps most intriguing is what happens next. It is generally agreed that although work continued after the Emperors death, the full extent of his plans were never realised. What isn’t known, on the other hand, is exactly what did get finished. In surrounding tombs, accidentally found during trial excavations, dancers, acrobats, musicians servants and other hands have been found, along with a stable block. This is even before entering into the main tomb itself. Although it is unlikely to be completely comprehensive, no one can accurately predict what may be hidden beneath the man-made central mound and surrounding areas, which surely is immensely exciting for all involved.

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Most thoughts point to scripture found describing untold treasures and an underground kingdom laid out as a replica of the emperors own, with rivers and lakes of mercury. Scared of destroying some artefacts as well as showing respect for the burial site, the technology still is not available to begin an excavation, but early soil tests show a frightening mercury content. The romantic in me hopes that something truly magical is found.

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In good Chinese fashion, I decided to have a little bit of fun and take some more of my selfie ranges, as seen in previous blogs. This week, my ‘Terrie’, or ‘Warrie’. You choose!!

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Also, I got slightly carried away and bought one myself, slightly bigger than I wanted it to be. I heard a sneaky rumour before going that it is possible to get your own face on one, but unfortunately that never came to fruition. Nevertheless, coming to a home near me in England soon!

Next week, the Yangtze River and the magnificent 3 Gorges. Should be a belter….

 

Have a great week!

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One thought on “31. The Terracotta Army

  1. […] To put a spin on that, you may remember the spin-off ‘Maoie’ ‘Wallie’ and ‘Warrie’ from blogs on Beijing, the Great Wall and Xian […]

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