John Locher, world traveler, lover of all things China, and tour leader for our Spirit of China trip, guests this week on Halle’s blog.
In March 1974, two farmer brothers were digging a well. They struck something. “At first all we saw was the top of a head, then as we dug further we saw the whole head.” They thought it was a bronze relic that they could sell for the price of some cigarettes. With a hammer they broke off the head and brought it back to their village where others were afraid to touch it. “We thought it was a temple statue – a Buddha, perhaps. We were frightened that the Buddha would punish us.” Eight thousand warrior statues later, these brothers are attractions themselves. Today, they are certainly no longer farmers. One brother works in a souvenir shop just outside the Terracotta Museum grounds. The other brother works inside, posing for photos and autographing books available in many languages. You will see them both if you visit. As I observed and met them, I wondered about their lives since their discovery. The guides I know well in China tell me that each brother is always there and has been for many years, essentially employed by this ancient clay army.
March to the Army
The first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, felt he needed protection in the afterlife and wanted someone to rule over. These amazing warriors, each modeled after an individual person, now stand in their burial pit for all eternity, a testament to the emperor’s legacy. The incredibly detailed bold figures of various sizes, shapes and ornamentation, are displayed in a wide variety of conditions. Some are fully restored, some crumble in piles barely visible under dirt, and there are many stages in between. The common photos you may have seen of the warriors do not begin to tell the story. Why did this emperor go to such lengths to for this spectacle? We may never know. I spent time watching a team of archaeologists working on uncovering more warriors and artifacts, and it was fascinating.
The famous Terracotta Army is located in Xi’an, the capital of the Shaanxi province in the People’s Republic of China. It is one of the oldest cities of China and one of four ancient capitals. There are so many things to experience here: the Xi’an museum, two Wild Goose Pagodas, the ancient city walls, and of course, the Terracotta Warriors.
Finding Your Own Way
What struck me with the Terracotta Warriors, as with most of China, is the way the Chinese excel in unique displays of historical attractions. The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven (to name just a few) each have a uniquely Chinese way for sharing their treasures. Everything is well-orchestrated and captivating, and when I went, an adventure in itself because we were outnumbered by Chinese travelers! I rarely felt like a tourist, although being 6’5” did make me a bit of attraction myself at times.
I enjoy mixing their Chinese culture with my way, in order to catch that more rare opportunity to experience and reflect in my own style. Everything from the tour guides, crowd flow, souvenirs and shops, museums, even the printed rules and signage, is very well-planned, though it never seemed restrictive. I loved seeing the how and the why of the way they do things. Have you marveled at the sheer logistics and order of an Olympic Games event? With the Chinese you see this spectacle and order in the ancient relic of the Terracotta Army as well as in the modern-day version of how the Chinese share it with us. You have this feeling throughout China. That is one of the mysteries that can only be experienced while in the country.
When you visit Xi’an, you find your own point of view, make your own discoveries. You can witness these famous brothers and the Terracotta Army, all of them still serving the first emperor of China.