Not that this is a new dream destination for me. I read about the discovery of the army in National Geographic as a teen, amazed both by the concept (a life-size army of thousands made out of clay!?!) and the beauty of the figures. Someday I would see them for myself. Now I’ve seen a few of them (the MIA exhibit included ten human figures and four horses, a set of stone armor, and replicas of the miniature bronze horse and carriage sets, among other treasures from this period of Chinese history), but that glimpse increased my desire to see them in situ.
Created to protect his tomb for eternity, the army is aligned in fighting formation in pits in front of his tomb. It was covered over, but damage during rebellions in the years following the Emperor’s death. However, the creation of the army was not documented in ancient records and its existence was unknown and unimagined until farmers discovered it while digging a well in 1974.
The entire burial complex (believed to be the largest in the world) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Excavation of the site has revealed many wonders, including more than 2,000 warriors and thousands of real weapons.
|aros M r a z (Maros) via Wikimedia Commons|
Since only a small portion of the site is likely to be excavated within my lifetime, I’ll never know what lies hidden there. This seems like even more reason to visit speculate on what might lie below the surface.
Most of the surface of the site is open to visitors as the Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum Site Park, which consists of two separate components:
- The Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses, which includes the three pits in which these figures are located.
- Lishan Garden, which includes the Museum of Terracotta Acrobatics, Museum of Terracotta Civil Officials, Museum of Stone Armor, and Museum of Bronze Chariot and Horse, as well as other architectural areas surrounding the site of the emperor’s tomb.
Most people visit the terracotta warriors as part of a day trip, but I’d like to find a volunteer program that would allow me to spend more time getting to know these guys a little better and helping support their preservation. (There have been some of these available in the past, so I’ll hope that there will be opportunities in the future.)
This rather over-dramatic episode of the PBS show Secrets of the Dead discusses some of the latest (fascinating) scientific discoveries related to the terracotta warriors, including theories on their actual construction. (The show repeatedly claims the army was created in the 11 year period after the unification of China and demonstrates how that would have been possible. Other sources indicate that this project probably began earlier.)
The Dream Trip List