Friday, July 17, 2015

The Magnificent Terracotta Army of Qin Dynasty (Henan and Xi'an Trip Day 6)

Day 6, we departed early from Lingbao and reached Xi'an 3 hours later. After lunch, we headed straight to the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. The mausoleum is very big and can be seen far away from the highway. Today, more than 600 burial pits have been discovered and excavated at the area. Our target was the most visited and most famous one- the Museum of First Qin Emperor's Mausoleum (秦始皇兵马俑博物馆), where the Terracotta of Warriors and Horses (兵马俑) were found.

The mausoleum was the burial place of Ying Zheng (259 - 210 BC), the first feudal emperor in China. According to history, he was the first king to conquer and united whole China. He believed in the life after death, thus started to build his own mausoleum at the age of 13- the year he inherited the kingdom of Qin from his father. The massive construction lasted 39 years, involving 720 thousands workers.

The excavation has found the pits with pottery imperial guards, royal stables, armors and weapons, civil officials, servants, entertainers, gardens, rare birds and beasts, chariots, and many more, showing the emperor's determination to bring whatever he had and enjoyed thorough his life to the underground. How big is the mausoleum? Estimated by China official- 56 square km. By looking at its scale, it might be the biggest and most magnificent mausoleum in the world. It was listed as an UNESCO Heritage Site in 1987.

We reached the ticket counter at 2 pm. The place was flooded by visitors. The entrance fee was CNY150 per person. Again, the electric car was there to sent us from the entrance to the museum, and like many other places, it was a one way service. We were required to travel 1 km back to the entrance on foot through a walking street afterward.

The museum consists of a few buildings- the exhibition hall and 3 pits, and a souvenir shop. All three pits cover an area of 20,000 square meters, with the most interesting terracotta army found in no. 1 pit. The no. 1 pit contains more than 6000 terracotta army arranged in a tactical formation. We spent around 2 hours in the museum. It was a lot of walking, plus we had to fight our way through the crowd to reach the viewing area. Well, the museum with terracotta of warriors and horses is really a must visit site in China.

The construction of mass rapid transit line was just beside the highway (upper left). It was a bit hazy at Lingbao but the sky turned bright when we reached Xi'an (upper right). There were tolls! (lower right). The crop fields can be seen spanning in Henan, but getting lesser when we reached Xi'an.

We reached the The Museum of the First Qin Emperor's Mausoleum around 2 pm. There were not many visitors at the shopping area (upper left) but the ticket counter was crowded (upper right). We moved to the entrance of the museum (lower right), which was around 1 km away from the museum buildings. The electric car provides one way trip to the museum buildings, with no extra charge.

We started with the exhibition hall with unearthed artifacts (upper right). The hall was extremely crowded and we could barely find a place to stand, especially in the rooms where the artifacts were exhibited. We could barely hear the explanation from our tour guide as well. Two of the most precious items are the bronze chariots, which were excavated in 1978 (upper and lower right) . The experts spend 8 years to restore the chariots to their present states. Both chariots were carved with stunning details, with even the muscle, joint, and even nails were crafted lifelike. We were lucky to be able to take photos (without flashlight) of the two chariots, as most of the time, we could see only heads of other visitors.

Then, we went to visit no. 1 pit situated on the left side of the museum complex. No. 2 pit is located on the right, while no. 3 pit is behind no. 1 pit.

Closer look at no. 1 pit.

This is what we came for, the terracotta army of Qin Shi Huang! We were waiting, squeezing, and waiting, and squeezing again for more than 10 minutes to see this stunning scene due to the massive crowd there.

A closer look at the army.

The observation platform was extremely crowded. This photo was taken on our way down the right alley.

Restored terracotta- foot soldiers and cavalries. All the soldiers have different expression. They have even different hairstyle.

Restoration in progress- the experts need to reconstruct the damaged terracotta piece by piece like playing jigsaw puzzle.

No. 2 pit was partially excavated. All the terracotta were still burried underground. There were less visitors there.

No 3 pit was much smaller with less terracotta. It had been fully excavated.

This was how the no. 3 pit looks like. Most of the terracotta army placed there were the officers, showing that the pit might be a command office. We could see a worker (in pink) was collecting rubbish which was thrown by visitors into the pit.

We took a rest at the souvenir shop (upper left) and bought a book "An Exploration of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor" with CNY150 (upper right). The person in charge claimed that the book was sold only in the museum. Anyway, it is a book with detailed information about the whole mausoleum with systematic records about the excavation of the burial pits. The best part was, we got the signature of Yang Zhifa (杨志发), the discoverer of the terracotta on our book. For us, it is a book worth reading. We walked for 1 km through a shopping pedestrian street to our bus (lower row).

Next, we stopped by Huaching Gong (华清宫,亦称华清池), the winter palace of the emperors. The palace is also known as Huaching Hot Spring or Huaching Pool. The pool is located at the northern foot of Mount Li, around 30 minutes west from the Qin Emperor's Mausoleum. Originally served as the bathing area for emperors, Xuanzong Emperor of Tang Dynasty extensively built the area into a palace in 723 AD. According to the old inscription, the palace buildings spanned from the top to the foot of the mountain. It served as the living palace for the Xuanzong Emperor and Yang Guifei (唐玄宗与杨贵妃).

However, the palace was not properly maintained after Tang Dynasty. Today, most of the palace buildings there were built in 1980s, based on the record of history. Only the pools and the bathing area are the real relics from the past.

Huaching Pool was also the place where the Xi'an incident took place in 1936, where Chiang Kaishek was forced by Zhang Xueliang to be united with Chinese Communist Party to fight against invading Japanese army. Beside Hua Ching Pool, there are several other bathing pools built by other emperors around the hot spring area.

We couldn't deny that the pool and the palace buildings were really beautiful and nicely maintained. For us, it is a place worth a visit because of our knowledge about the love story of Xuanzong Emperor and Yang Guifei, and how the emperor lost his kingdom because of the beauty. However, it might not be a good place for those who has no idea about these historical characters. With the entrance fee of CNY110 per person, it is expensive compared to the Museum of the Qin Emperor's Mausoleum.

Huaching Pool entrance.

Beautiful scenery of antique Tang Dynasty buildings with Lily Pond (芙蓉池) is what we can see right after the entrance.

Pool of Nine Dragon (九龙湖). Li Mountain can be seen far behind the palace buildings.

Some of the beautiful buildings inside the palace. The royal pools of Tang Dynasty (唐御汤) are located behind the Pool of Nine Dragon (lower left). A big statue of half-naked Yang Guifei was built in the middle of the royal pools area.

Bathing pool specially built for Yang Guifei by Xuanzong Emperor.

The pools built for Xuanzong Emperor (upper left), Taizong Emperor (upper right), and  the servants (lower right) are opened to visitors as well. We have the chance to wash our hand and face with the water from the hotspring at a special area beside the Yang Guifei statue.

Then, we continued our visit to the former residence of Chiang Kaishek. This photo of Ling Shing's parents were taken at the gate of the residence.

The place is really beautiful. The building with red pillars on the right was the guard house.

Wu Jian Ting (五间厅) behind us was the former office and resting area of Chiang Kaishek.

All the furniture was placed at their original places.

We left Huaching Pool at around 6:10 pm and headed to our hotel at Xi'an. We were caught by heavy traffic in the city area, and the trip to Xi An Ramada Hotel took us around 1 hour 15 minutes. Despite tiredness, we still took our opportunity to roam around the Muslim's night market (回民一条街) which is just a few hundred meters away from our hotel. We will share more about the night market and our hotel in our upcoming posts.

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