Friday, April 19, 2013

Xian and the Terracotta Warriors

After hitting the highlights of the Beijing area for a couple days, we flew to Xian to continue our tour of China. We were met at the airport by Nancy, one of the best tour guides I've ever had. She spoke with an amazing English vocabulary and told us all sorts of interesting facts about Xian. Our itinerary included a dumpling making class in the home of a local and it was Nancy. So we traveled to her home for this experience and had a great time. It was definitely the best meal we had in China since her mother came over to prepare a lot of it in advance of our arrival. We gathered up our chopsticks and bowls and bellied up to the table for some Chinese home cooking - yum!

On the way into her highrise apartment building, we spotted a Chinese pug. It didn't look a whole lot like American pugs, but you gotta love the twirly tail.

Our hotel in Xian was great - an old Communist era office building in the "Soviet style" that has been converted. Not so pretty on the outside but just lovely on the inside where it counts.

After a mediocre hotel in Beijing, the plush amenities were greatly appreciated. And a western style toilet. I had heard about the standing toilets in China. The only western/sitting style toilets found in public restrooms are in the handicapped stalls. We waited in line at several public toilets - museums, restaurants and airports - with other non Asian women to use the one sit down potty. Because otherwise it was a battle not to tinkle all over yourself when using the stand up sort. 

And the toilet paper... took me a time or two to learn that lesson. Most bathrooms have just one toilet paper dispenser on the wall outside the stalls. You get what you need and take it in with you. Thank heavens we all had packets of tissue in our purse so we didn't have to drip dry while figuring out the system. 

The next morning, Nancy and our driver took us to see the nearby terracotta warriors. I'm a total history nerd and love this sorta stuff - the older, the better. 

Discovered almost 40 years ago by some farmers, one of whom we saw in the museum, we were amazed at the sheer number of them. Created in the second century BC, they were to accompany the emperor into the afterlife. 

The grooves you see in the earthenworks running in between the lines of warriors were there to support a roof of timber laid across the top. Unfortunately, many of the timbers were destroyed in a fire set by looters. The rest have rotted away and all that's left is the impression of where they rested.

Pit 1, the first one discovered by the farmers, is still an active archaeological and restoration site - very cool.

Although pit 1 was the most impressive, we enjoyed touring pits 2 and 3. Below is a pic of our amazing tour guide Nancy, in red, walking the husband and girls over to one of the later pits. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was all well kept, clean and a pleasure to tour. We ate lunch there and the meal was quite tasty.

Pit 2 is seen above and pit 3 is pictured below.

They had removed some of the warriors from the pit so visitors could see the detail up close. On the back of a warrior or two, you can still see a bit of faint red color. All of the warriors were brightly painted before being buried. However, the color wasn't fired in the kiln but rather added afterwards and so very little of it is intact today. What I found interesting is that all of the warriors have different faces since they used real Chinese men to create each one.

The horse, buggy and driver seen above were found separately and are made from copper. I was impressed with this amazing craftsmanship from 2,000+ years ago. It's mind boggling to me how some cultures flourished and were so advanced while others were not. 

On our exit from the terracotta complex, we were routed through a commerical, touristy sort of area to reach our van and driver.

The girls are convinced the animal skins, seen above, are cats. I dismissed it at the time, but after taking a second look at the pics I'm afraid I kinda have to agree with them. 

Especially the ones seen above. They were advertised as foxes, but maybe that's code for kitties.

Of course, we couldn't make our escape without having to visit a terracotta warrior statue workshop that also made lacquered furniture. The statues came in a variety of sizes and the husband bought several to take back for his friends at work.

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