Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Terracotta Warriors – 30 December 2011

We knew that it was going to be cold visiting the Terracotta Warriors but although we wrapped up well it was still absolutely bitter and there was very little difference between inside and outside the buildings. The advantage of putting up with the winter temperatures was that it is the off-season and there are no crowds blocking the views of the warriors. The queueing barriers that we simply walked past give some indication of the numbers that are on site in summer when the temperature inside the pit buildings is 40C

Before we got to the warriors we visited the local museum for an overview of the history of the area and then went to the factory where the replica warriors are made but even though these were “inside” destinations they were still very chilly and the sales people in the museum shop were all wearing their duck-down coats to keep warm.

The money spinner at the warriors is the fact that you can have your souvenir book signed by one of the farmers who originally discovered the buried army when they were digging a well during the drought in 1974. Of the original seven only four are still alive and they presumably make a good living by signing books and keeping the sales bubbling.

Although the buried army has been well covered in articles and documentaries, the scale of the enterprise embarked on by the Emperor is quite breathtaking when one gets to see the real thing. 40 years in the making with up to 720,000 workers engaged at the peak, it is a remarkable monument to the vanity of the Emperor who was really just a child when he began to build his own tomb.

The fact that there seems to be no intention of opening and exploring the reported wonders of the tomb itself seems odd. The official reason is “to preserve it” but if it is never to be seen then what is the point of preservation? The more cynical may postulate that they have a fairly good idea it has been well looted in the past and “preserving it” maintains the mystique. It is something we will never know.

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