Sunday, December 11, 2011

the terracotta warriors & horses

the terracotta warriors and horses museum of xian is a must see for all visitors to this ancient city, formerly known as chang-an. after lunch on the day of our arrival in xian, we were on a mini-bus on our way to the lintong district to see the spirit army of emperor shi huang ti, the first emperor of china. a huge statue of the emperor greeted us as we arrived at the site.

the museum was built on the excavation site, which consists of 3 pits or vaults, covering an area of 16 300 square metres. when it was first open to the public on 1 oct 1979, the entrance fee was 10 yuan. today, it will cost you 110 yuan to gain admission into the museum premises.

the clay warriors had been buried for more than 2200 years before they were accidentally discovered in march 1974 by some farmers digging for a well. however, well before that other people living in that area had also stumbled upon broken pottery while they were clearing the land or digging wells.

in special glass-cases are the displays of the two miniature bronze chariots. i would not call them miniatures; they were actually scaled-down version of the emperor's personal chariots. the weapons and the adornments of the charioteers were painstakingly reproduced. there were even tiny arrows that could be shot from the functional crossbows.

many people are not aware that not one of the clay figures was found intact when they were unearthed. all the warriors on display at the various pits have undergone reconstruction and restoration. another thing that most people do not know is that the terracotta warriors were not always of that dull colour. once they were very colourful, being painted with laquer of different colours.

what is really remarkable about the terracotta warriors is that they are life-size and they are all unique. each warrior is different from the next; no two warriors look the same though most of them wear the moustache in the same style.

although thousands of warrior figures have been unearthed, very few of them have been taken out of china because they are considered priceless treasure of the nation. when i was in xian viewing the thousands of pieces, there was an exhibition in singapore at the asian civilisations museum featuring a few pieces of the terracotta warriors. i think the first exhibition outside china was held in europe. it was reported that the responses in europe were overwhelming.

only a few visiting heads of state have had the honour and privilege of viewing the famous clay warriors at close range. these few people, including queen elizabeth of england and president clinton of the usa, were taken down to pit one to be up close with the pottery soldiers.

what i find particularly mystifying about the uncovering of these artefacts is that according to some projections, there are more than 8000 of these figures but so far only about 2000 have been unearthed. why have they slowed down the excavation process?

according to some friends i have checked with, the authorities are waiting to acquire the technology to take out the figurines from an area that has been flooded with mercury. it has been reported that toxic mercury vapour is present in the area where the emperor was buried.

like everything else in china, not all the terracotta warriors that you see in china are authentic. there are a number of potteries that make these figurines for sale and they look very much like the ones on display at the museum in lintong.

i have seen terracotta warriors in the compound of a transport company in kranji.


Icemoon said...

we had them in singapore museum not too long ago.

yg said...

icemoon, yes, i knew about it. before i left for xian, someone told me that the exhibition was coming to s'pore. when i was xian, one of the s'poreans in my group also mentioned it. but, nothing like going to the actual site to see them.

Richard Finley said...

This are the famous Tera Cotta soldiers, nice to have some pictures of it!

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