juliet: (Default)
So, after a day of doing not-a-lot in Xi'an yesterday I got up hideously early this mornng (6am - was supposed to be 6.30 but other people in my dorm very noisily getting up just before 6 brought it forward) to head off to visit the Terracotta Warriors.

The early start did pay off - I was about the first person in, and when I walked into the biggest hall/pit (6000 soldiers, although most of those are only theoretical as it's only a quarter or so excavated as yet) it wa occupied by only me, a couple of guards, and a few hundred terracotta chaps. Which was rather splendid.

I went to the British Museum exhibition last winter (on a freebie from [livejournal.com profile] uon's employers), and was fascinated then, but said that I'd had in my mind *more* of them. On this occasion, more were delivered. Apparently some people find it disappointing; I was not amongst this group. Mind you, I've had a fascination with them for *years*.

I was glad to have picked up a book about it all when in Beijing, because the information provided isn't particularly good. The soldiers themselves are amazing, though - looking down into the main pit, I kept being convinced that one of them woud turn and wink at me, or possibly that they'd all get fed up with being stared at and start climbing out to wander off... When they were buried they'd have been painted (you can still see little flakes of paint on some of them, and some of the more recent excavations, not on display, have dug up warriors with more paint still on them), and imagining that is even more impressive.

In the exhibition hall off to one side they have the two half-size bronze chariots that were also dug up in another pit - I loved those too, but by then the vast masses of tour groups had started to arrive, so getting through to the cases became an exercise in crowd-movement, especially as I wanted to peer at them from *all* available sides. (The advantage to the tour group thing is that they move in packs, so if you're patient large gaps will eventually open up for a few seconds, before the next group swoop in, and you can nip in there).

Before leaving I went back to the main pit to have another look - and proved the wisdom 0f coming early, as by then (11 or so) it was shoulder-to-shoulder round the edge, and three-deep in places. I snuck through to the barier to gawp for a bit longer, though.

I don't think I'm doing the whole thing justice particularly wel - partly because *why* I liked it is quite hard to describe. The headline figures (6000 warriors, etc etc) isn't what you actually see, so it's not just the numbers - although there are enough there that the numbers *are* impressive, and extrapolating from what you can see to the size of the main pit even more so. (And that's without the *other* pts they're digging up - there was no reference at all anywhere to the 'acrobats' they found recently, athough I recognised one of them in a side-exhibition on Chinese sport). I think it was the detail, the level of realism that really got me. And the thought of the scale of the undertaking. I'l be really interested to find out what's there when they finally do excavate the tom itself (not on the cards in the near future) - here's definitely evidence of high levels of mercury. Interestingly, recently a tomb from a similar era was excavated fairly nearby, and the bodies were in ony-just-dead condition thanks to multiple layers of coffins and a cinnabar (chemical you get mercury from) bath. Incorruptibility of the body wa a Big Deal then, an it's likely that the First Emperor would have used similar techniques - so we may yet get to find out what he actually looked like.

Anyway: I am off back to Beijing this evening, in order to get train to Hanoi tomorrow, so once again I am being lazy & hanging out in the hostel courtyard. It is nice here!
juliet: (Default)
So, after a day of doing not-a-lot in Xi'an yesterday I got up hideously early this mornng (6am - was supposed to be 6.30 but other people in my dorm very noisily getting up just before 6 brought it forward) to head off to visit the Terracotta Warriors.

The early start did pay off - I was about the first person in, and when I walked into the biggest hall/pit (6000 soldiers, although most of those are only theoretical as it's only a quarter or so excavated as yet) it wa occupied by only me, a couple of guards, and a few hundred terracotta chaps. Which was rather splendid.

I went to the British Museum exhibition last winter (on a freebie from [livejournal.com profile] uon's employers), and was fascinated then, but said that I'd had in my mind *more* of them. On this occasion, more were delivered. Apparently some people find it disappointing; I was not amongst this group. Mind you, I've had a fascination with them for *years*.

I was glad to have picked up a book about it all when in Beijing, because the information provided isn't particularly good. The soldiers themselves are amazing, though - looking down into the main pit, I kept being convinced that one of them woud turn and wink at me, or possibly that they'd all get fed up with being stared at and start climbing out to wander off... When they were buried they'd have been painted (you can still see little flakes of paint on some of them, and some of the more recent excavations, not on display, have dug up warriors with more paint still on them), and imagining that is even more impressive.

In the exhibition hall off to one side they have the two half-size bronze chariots that were also dug up in another pit - I loved those too, but by then the vast masses of tour groups had started to arrive, so getting through to the cases became an exercise in crowd-movement, especially as I wanted to peer at them from *all* available sides. (The advantage to the tour group thing is that they move in packs, so if you're patient large gaps will eventually open up for a few seconds, before the next group swoop in, and you can nip in there).

Before leaving I went back to the main pit to have another look - and proved the wisdom 0f coming early, as by then (11 or so) it was shoulder-to-shoulder round the edge, and three-deep in places. I snuck through to the barier to gawp for a bit longer, though.

I don't think I'm doing the whole thing justice particularly wel - partly because *why* I liked it is quite hard to describe. The headline figures (6000 warriors, etc etc) isn't what you actually see, so it's not just the numbers - although there are enough there that the numbers *are* impressive, and extrapolating from what you can see to the size of the main pit even more so. (And that's without the *other* pts they're digging up - there was no reference at all anywhere to the 'acrobats' they found recently, athough I recognised one of them in a side-exhibition on Chinese sport). I think it was the detail, the level of realism that really got me. And the thought of the scale of the undertaking. I'l be really interested to find out what's there when they finally do excavate the tom itself (not on the cards in the near future) - here's definitely evidence of high levels of mercury. Interestingly, recently a tomb from a similar era was excavated fairly nearby, and the bodies were in ony-just-dead condition thanks to multiple layers of coffins and a cinnabar (chemical you get mercury from) bath. Incorruptibility of the body wa a Big Deal then, an it's likely that the First Emperor would have used similar techniques - so we may yet get to find out what he actually looked like.

Anyway: I am off back to Beijing this evening, in order to get train to Hanoi tomorrow, so once again I am being lazy & hanging out in the hostel courtyard. It is nice here!

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