The Terracotta Soldiers in China
By Seif Kamel
One of the Shaanxi farmers, who was digging for a water well, led to the most important archeological finding in the 20th century, the Terracotta Soldiers of Qin Shihuang. These real life statues of around 8000 soldiers armed with real weapons and accompanied by horses and chariots were to escort Shihuang in his afterlife. This museum hosting the Terracotta soldiers has become one of the highlights of any tour to China.
About Qin Shihuang
After the last of his rivals was destroyed in 221 BC, Qin Shihuang became the first king to rule over unified China. He was able to establish a centralized government near the today.
To the contrary to the formal governments of China at the time where each province had its own local governing, the new centralized government gave all the powers to the divine godlike emperor.
Because of the ambitious construction projects that were initiated by Qin Shihuang, high public unrest was created among the peoples of China. These projects that included the establishment of the first section of the Great Walls of China, his own charming massive tomb, and a huge number of routs and canals needed the forced labor of millions of Chinese people. Many of the achievements of Qin became the highlights of many China tours today.
Actually Qin passed away from a mercury poison during a false attempt to make himself immortal. Only four years afterwards, his son was murdered and this made an end to the first dynasty ruling over a unified China.
More than 700,000 soldiers worked for more than 40 years to finish the construction of the tomb of Qin and the section of the Terracotta soldiers as well. These constructions have become the most fabulous touristic attraction in the country added to any travel package to China.
The warriors themselves are believed that they stood in line in the process of sculpturing. Legs and torsos were fired separately and then combined with sculpture heads.
Since most of the workers were unskilled, the more skillful craftsmen were responsible for more delicate work such as the ornamentation of the tomb and the design and production of the heads of the soldiers.
The structures in the Terracotta Soldiers Museum still gather the attention of tourists who visit the museum as part of their holidays in China
Afterwards, the soldiers were painted to make them look more realistic and durable. It was said that all of the soldiers were buried alive to keep the location of the tomb as a secret to protect it against robbers and thieves.
Around five years after the death of Qin, looting soldiers burned the thick wooden beams supporting the vaults. The beams and the Eastern walls fell down burying the soldiers and the whole structure under the sand.
The Terracotta soldiers were buried for long centuries but the lack of oxygen and sunlight has preserved the whole place in the way we still view until today.
Since its discovery in the beginning of the 20th century, only a small portion was unearthed and excavation work is still carried on to discover more soldiers and other sections.
No historian or archeologist were able to know for sure how many warriors are left unearthed beyond the excavated area that extends for almost 700 X 200 foot in surface area.
The excavation works had to stop because scientists were busy thinking of the best ways to preserve the discovered soldiers and parts which are destroyed quickly if they are exposed to oxygen.
The first vault contains most of the figures that were unearthed until now. The other two vaults contain broken soldiers with their weapons providing the visitors with an idea of how much time and effort was exerted to transform the vault number one to become in the way we view today.
The first vault is the section that is visited the most by tourists exploring the complex as part of their vacations in China
Before entering into vault number one, a movie is shown to the visitors, coming from all over the world to spend a tour in China, illustrating how these soldiers were constructed, destroyed, forgotten, and then rediscovered. This movie is very entertaining and provides valuable historical information and it gives the visitor a sense of how this area looked like 2200 in the past.
The first vault hosts around 6000 soldiers although only 1000 were put together and restored by the archeologists. The soldiers stand in their original pits and the visitors can only view them form above from the walkways erected recently. Usually these walkways welcome hundreds of tourists daily who travel to China to view the marvelous characteristics of the ancient civilization.
Those soldiers in the front lines are fully preserved in their original colors and outfits, but the weapons were put in another section as the weapon holders were destroyed with time passing by.
Vault number 2 gives the visitor the chance to view broken soldiers scattered on the ground in the way they were discovered. They are in the same shape and position when the first soldiers were discovered in 1999.
The visitor can actually see the pink original colors of the soldieries in this vault. As the Greeks, the ancient Chinese used to paint their statues with lifelike red and pink colors.
Around the sides of the vault, the visitors can view the best preserved soldiers put in glass galleries in a perfect shape and condition. Many affordable tours to China include a visit to the Terracotta Soldiers Museum.
The vault number 3 contains 68 soldiers and officers from different ranks and in various stages of construction. This vault looks similar to the number 2, except that there is a significant sculpture in this section; a charioteer ready to attack and it used to have a wooden chariot that was lost with centuries passing by. A visit to the museum can always be added to any custom tour to China.
The Tomb of Qin
It was said that the huge tomb of Qin used to have an underground palace where 100 rivers used to flow with mercury. This is besides the ceilings of the tomb that were decorated with precious stones and pearls representing the stars in the sky.
Actually the percentage of mercury in the soil of the areas of lands around the tomb is much higher than average indicating that some of these legends were actually true.
Although the location of the tomb of Qin was discovered in 1974 near the East of Xian, the Chinese authority haven’t went into excavating it, because they didn't have the sophisticated machinery to carry out such a complicated process.
Only in 1999, experienced archeologists have started excavating the area around the tomb finding marvelous treasures. They have only unearthed the surface of the tomb while the rest of the deep tomb is still untouched.
The scientists were not even able to indentify the main entrance to the tomb, but it is most probably where much copper was discovered.
The Chinese authorities delayed any more further excavations until the part discovered is totally best preserved. They had the fear to loose what was already discovered as the most important archeological finding in the history of China.
The museum of the Terracotta Soldiers, which opens from 8 30 in the morning till 5 30 in the afternoon, has a nice gift shop selling all sorts of Chinese souvenirs, especially replicas of the Terracotta soldiers of course. Many group tours include a visit to the most important historical site in India nowadays.
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