The Spectacular Terracotta Warriors, Xian, 2011

I had always wanted to see the Terracotta Warriors in person so in 2011, I finally decided to go to Xian to see them. The intact figures and the large scale of the army fascinated me. Also, there were rumours that they were real human beings… Nah! It was proved to be wrong. Some novelists just made it all up to make the entire thing sound mysterious.

The Terracotta Warriors were built for the cruel emperor in the Qin dynasty. He was also the one who commanded to build the Great Wall, yes, the glutinous rice one (check out my Beijing trip here). The cruel guy had all the traits of a bad leader. At the same time, he was also very clever. As a sceptical person, he of course thought (and in fact) he had many enemies so, to protect his afterlife, he ordered his officials to build an army of warriors in his tomb which is the one you can see in Xian now. It sounds very similar to the emperors in other countries. People are people, regardless of where they are from.

If you analyse this person, perhaps you will find that he felt very insecure and probably lonely. He also had a conflicting personality. On the one hand, he asked his officials to look for elixir to prolong his life and to achieve immortality. (That sounds like vampires.) On the other hand, he commanded his people to build a tomb. Ok, let’s call it a ‘contingency plan’ then. In case the elixir failed and he died, he would be protected by his Terracotta Warriors.  

Of course, everyone has to die including this emperor. After his death, China went through a period where different leaders from different provinces fought for powers. One of them was Liu Bang, who was a scoundrel. His father used to call him useless. But because of his generous personality, he managed to gather all the talented people to help him. Eventually, he rose to power and was fighting in wars with very capable generals, including General Xiang Yu. And that’s when I came in. 😄

Xian was actually a stopover for me in 2011. My main destination was Xinjiang. Yes, you are right, Xinjiang. The one that’s in the news all the time in 2021. I started my journey in Xian with the sole purpose to visit the Terracotta Warriors. I read in Lonely Planet that I could take a public bus that would take me directly to there. But when I arrived at the bus terminus, I saw a sea of buses. By mistake, I bought a tour bus ticket. When I paid, I asked why it was so expensive. The answer was, ‘our bus will stop at various spots and we have a tour guide onboard to explain to you the history of those sites. You can get off the bus if you want to visit those sites. You need to pay for the entrance fees though. Otherwise, you can stay on the bus. The bus will depart in no time. So, do you still want the ticket?’  

It turned out that the bus waited for more than 20 minutes to get enough people onboard. I was so eager to see the Terracotta Warriors but the only thing I could do when I was waiting was to pray that it’d start soon.

More and more people came on the bus. The tour finally started.

We visited quite a lot of places including taking a cable car to a mountain where Chiang Kai Shek hid himself.

Chiang Kai Shek hid here.

Then we arrived at Hong Gate where a very significant banquet between Liu Bang and General Xiang Yu was held. This event was so significant that it determined the fate of China.  

The Generals who attended the banquet – from the Xiang’s side
The Generals who attended the banquet – from the Liu’s side

That time, Liu had already defeated the Qin army. It had been agreed that whoever defeated the Qin army would take over the place. General Xiang was still a very powerful man and Liu was probably afraid of him. So, when Liu and his officials attended the banquet organised by General Xiang, he apologized for defeating the Qin army and said that he’d not take the power from General Xiang. General Xiang’s officials were not convinced of course. They knew that Liu would be a threat to General Xiang so they planned to kill him on the spot. One of Xiang’s officials suggested to perform a sword dance to entertain the guests. As he did that, for several times, he pointed the sword to Liu. However, the officials of Liu weren’t stupid. One of them ‘performed’ the ‘dance’ with Xiang’s official. The two basically just started the attack and the defence ‘dance’. 

The sword ‘dance’ at the banquet

Liu later said he needed to use the loo so he left the scene. Xiang’s party of course summoned him back. Liu wanted to go back to bid them farewell but was stopped by his own official.

So, there he left.

No farewell.

After a few battles, Liu won and finally became the emperor of China.

He established the Han dynasty which was one of the glorious dynasties in Chinese history. That’s also where the term ‘Han Chinese’ came from. In fact, the word ‘Kanji’ in Japanese means ‘Han words’. (Kanji is one of the three Japanese writings. Like English, the Japanese language borrows quite a lot of foreign words including Chinese words. Those Chinese words written in Chinese characters in the Japanese language are called Kanji (🤔 sounds complicated 😅). The other two forms of Japanese writings are called Hiragana and Katakana.)

You can find all the details of this banquet in Wikipedia: It was beautifully written. You won’t be disappointed. It is like reading Lord of the Rings. I really love this story.

When Liu became the emperor, he teased his father, ‘you used to call me useless and that I wasn’t as good as my elder brother. Look what I have done now. HAHAHAHAHA!’ Although he said that, he respected his father a lot. He built a house for his father in a town where all his close friends lived so that he wouldn’t be lonely.

Campsite of Xiang
Campsite of Xiang

Sitting behind me on the bus was a university student who studied in Shaanxi University (?). As both of us were travelling solo, we started talking. Knowing that I sometimes couldn’t understand the accent, she did translation for me. She was very humble, curious and kind.

There was also a professor on the bus. He started talking to us. Well, I should say, he started hassling me about not knowing the details of Chinese history. The university student defended me. ‘I don’t want to talk to that professor.’ I said. ‘I understand’ she responded.

Terracotta warriors. Spectacular.
Terracotta Warriors
A closer look at them
They were all ‘real’
It looked as if the soldiers on the right were wearing sneakers. LOL! The white stuff was actually some kind of materials that wrapped around the feet to protect them.
A soldier from Qin dynasty

When we saw the Terracotta warriors, she said, ‘I thought they were real persons!’ I laughed. ‘You are so cute’ I said.

In fact, they were all moulded based on real people so each one of them has a different feature and expression. But the artisans didn’t put a real person inside the terracotta.

After the tour, the university student told me she was going to meet up with her friend who was working in Xian city and invited me to come with her. Having nothing to do, I immediately said yes.

Xian city
The university student asked me what I’d like to eat and I said, ‘something local and authentic.’ So here we were, eating this local food. I couldn’t finish it. The white stuff tasted like pieces of steamed buns but soaked in soup. Er… not my taste. It was probably the second time I couldn’t eat local food. (the first time was in Tibet. Check out my 9 blogs about Tibet here) I always thought I could eat any kind of cuisine but…

I felt and still feel guilty as they paid for my meal and not only that, they paid for my drum tower entrance ticket too. I wanted to pay them but they said, ‘you are our guest.’ ‘but you two are students’ Then the girl said, ‘don’t worry. My friend is working here. He has income.’  They were so generous and kind!

Drum Tower
Drum Tower
View from Drum Tower

Tomorrow, I’d fly to Xinjiang, a place where people from the west think forced labour is used.

Stay tuned. 🙂

29 May 2011

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