April 27

The first emperor of China was decidedly quite ruthless. He also feared the wrath of those he conquered--both in this world, and even more, in the next. For this reason, he had constructed the famed Terra Cotta army to follow him into the afterlife. Seventy thousand craftsmen worked to create these eight thousand Life-sized soldiers which were buried around his tomb. So that his enemies would never find out about them, he had all documents referring to the project destroyed, and he had all seventy thousand craftsmen killed.

All but one, I guess, because after his fall, an uprising in the subsequent dynasty burnt and destroyed the army, and let it slip from memory until a farmer rediscovered it while digging a well in 1974.

Terra Cotta Warriors Museum

A museum was erected around the excavation. The farmer's land was taken by the state and declared a national treasure. To compensate the man, now considered a hero of the people, he now has the comparatively comfortable job of greeting visitors to the museum.

In Formation

The army was arranged in period formations, bore actual arms (though those were lost when the place was burned) and had a support retinue: horses, livestock, and more. Everything the spirit army would need in the afterlife.

Up Close

Infantrymen, shown here, were made in three pieces. Solid legs, hollow torsos with arms, and individualized heads. Details like arming points and laces are seen on the armor. Faces showed rank (by hair style) and ethnic origins can even be made out.

Ready for Orders

Of the eight thousand or so soldiers, only about two thousand have been unearthed. Many were damaged during the uprising, and had to be reconstructed prior to display. More are still being dug out and pieced together, but even at one quarter its original strength, the army is an impressive sight to behold.


On the way back from Terra Cotta army, we stopped in for some lunch at a great little place known for their noodles. There was to be a noodle-pulling demonstration, but as with many things in this time of SARS, it had to be cancelled. So we made do with this delicious assortment of zhongguo cai, including roast chicken, mushrooms, celery and chicken, and an intriguing twist on sweet potatoes: potatoes drizzled with caramelized sugar.

A word on Chinese hospitality: just enough food isn't enough, it's seen as being stingy, so most of the time there's more than anyone can possibly eat. Put aside your depression-era reluctance to waste food...

Typical Street

This isn't too atypical a street near Xi'an. Buildings range from the traditionally-roofed as seen here, to modern steel and glass towers, and all periods of buildings in between--usually all intermingled within a few blocks of each other.

Street Smarts

Don't even think about bringing your drivers license. Aside from the fact that it's not recognized as valid, it wouldn't do you a bit of good. The rules of engagement are entirely different from North America and most of Europe, and unless you've trained here, you'll be out of your element. Leave the driving here to the professionals.