Well, Typoon Wipha missed Shanghai, thank goodness. We landed here safely yesterday afternoon, after a half-day spent with the Terra Cotta Soldiers in Xi’an, the ancient capital of China.
The terra cotta soldiers are amazing, both in antiquity and sheer volume. They are part of the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of China, and date back to circa 200 BC (not sure of the dates; Mike is sleeping and I don’t want to disturb him to get the guidebook). Before Emperor Qin Shihuang, China was a set of six warring states; he conquered all the other states, thus unifying China into a single country. He then set about building his tomb (one might almost say “obsessively building his tomb”), which took over 40 years and, together with the Great Wall (another one of his projects) consumed about 1/3 of the GDP of China at the time(!).
The Qin dynasty was not only the first, but also the shortest in China’s history – Emperor Qin Shihuang only lived to about age 50, having unintentionally poisoned himself with mercury in an attempt to correct his yin-yang balance. After his death, his son lasted less than four years before peasant uprisings toppled the Qin dynasty. So the Qin dynasty lasted only about forty years, yet is still significant as the first dynasty, the one that unified China.
Emperor Qin Shihuang, like many other people at the time, believed that one would have an afterlife, and that what was buried with you, went with you into the afterlife. At the time it was not uncommon to bury people alive with a king or emperor (so that they could serve him in the afterlife), and Emperor Qin Shihuang originally intended to bury live soldiers with him in his tomb. Fortunately, his generals talked him out of that one, on the grounds that he would need his soldiers to keep military control of China. (Not to mention the internal revolt that would probably have happened if he had tried to bury a couple of thousand solders alive!) So instead, he had about 7,000 terra cotta soldiers made to go into the afterlife with him. Each of them was exquisitely detailed (you can see the thumbnails and facial details of every soldier, as well as their rank insignia) and beautifully painted. They stood in rank after rank within the tomb, along with bronze chariots, horses, and thousands of bronze weapons.
Unfortunately for history, after the Qin dynasty fell, the rebellious peasants entered the tomb, burned whatever would catch fire, and smashed the terra cotta soldiers into bits. Only one soldier has yet been found intact, a kneeling archer. The tomb collapsed and was forgotten until 1974, when a farmer digging a well unearthed a piece of terra cotta soldier. Since then it’s been excavated, producing the photos I’ll post below.
The kneeling archer:
They were organized in neat ranks: