A group of farmers worked the earth outside of Xi’an. It was early spring, and they’d need the additional water source for coming summer. But they found something there, buried underground, which would come to be considered one of the greatest archeological discoveries in history. The year was 1974, and the farmers had unearthed one of the Terracotta Warriors of Qin Shi Huang — the first Emperor of the Qin dynasty.
The tomb was filled with models of palaces, pavilions and offices as well as fine vessels, precious stones and rarities…” – Siam Qian
Since that discovery, archeologists have uncovered thousands of terracotta warriors, chariots, and horses. The site attracts millions of visitors every year and is one of the most popular attractions in China. My love for history won out over my hatred of crowds, and I found myself outside of Xi’an heading to see the Terracotta Warriors.
The first few halls weren’t disappointing, merely unremarkable. One was reserved for the Emperor’s bronze chariot and packed to bursting with surging hordes of tourists. I rushed through, just about ready to claw my way out by the end of it. The second hall (and the first pit I visited) was only slightly more impressive. It was more archeological dig than exhibition, but gave hints as to what was to come. Fragments of terracotta warriors lay half-buried at the bottom, and only a few had been even partially reassembled.
But the final hall was worth all the crowds, the claustrophobia, and the admission fee. Like Angkor Wat, the Terracotta Warriors are a singular sight, the scale of which is enough to leave most speechless.
Hundreds upon hundreds of reconstructed figures stand in trenches, armored and armed. Each face is unique: eyes, noses, mouths, hairstyles… even their hands. It would be an amazing feat if it was done in the present day, but these were created over 2,000 years ago.
The mysteries and treasures of Emperor Qin’s tomb are still being discovered. The archeological work on the area moves forward slowly and with caution. Wonders like the Terracotta Army are few and far between, and preserving them for future generations should take precedence over making the next big discovery.
After spending several hours gawking at the Terracotta Warriors, I caught the bus back into Xi’an. I chose to walk from the city center to my hotel, enjoying the energy of the metropolis around me. It was my last day in China — I would leave early the next morning to visit my friends in Taiwan.
The past month and a half had been amazing, and I can say without hesitation that China ranks in the upper echelon of my list of favorite countries. The people were kind and helpful, the food delicious, the history plentiful, and the nature absolutely stunning. So, will I go back?
You better believe it! I’ve got a 10 year visa, and I aim to use the heck out of it.
How about you? What’s an archeological marvel you’ve visited? What were your impressions? If you haven’t been to one, what’s one you’re wanting to see? Share in the comments below!