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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Terracotta Warriors

As my friend said, "This is the moment I have been waiting for!"
We traveled by bus to the site, passing the actual emperor's tomb site. Through the mist and pollution, we could spy a mound in a distant field. Our guide told us that they would test for mercury in the soil. High concentrations, probably a tomb. The ancient Chinese would build a wonderful building for their emperor, going so far as to put in a river of mercury for him to enjoy in the afterlife, as mercury was believed to have curative properties. 
But all I could think of was the mercury in the soil, getting into the food we ate. 
The bus cannot take us directly to the Terracotta Warriors site. We must park at one end of the market and walk in, crossing a busy road en mass.

The traffic is insane, the pollution worse. Cars and buses squeezing past each other down a road, people shoulder to shoulder. I put on a mask, as does my friend. And together, our group follows our guide, his yellow flag held high, and make our way through the market toward the Terracotta Warriors' entrance. 

I snap photos along the way, marveling at the variety available, at the throngs of people and the vendors hawking their wares. 
At the entrance, we go through the usual security, and then the turnstiles. 

The line up is just starting. We're early. Later, as we pass the entrance again, we do the math. Six turnstiles, one person a second, steady for 10 hours. 6X60X60X10. 216,000 people entered to see the Terracotta Warriors that day.
And all want to see that one huge first building. The iconic sight of thousands of clay soldiers lined up, deep in the field. We see the well that had been dug that one day decades ago, where the farmer found that first head, and marvel at how close he came to missing them. I have to pull off the mask, as it's hot and as hard to breathe as if I wasn't wearing it.
The people are ten or twelve deep, and I use all the skills I honed in Europe in the 80s to press through them. Chinese have no personal space, and pushing past them is nothing to them. No one gets angry, everyone gets their turn if they push in. I got my requisite selfie, a few pics of the warriors, but the building is dim to protect the paint. 

 Then I turn to photograph the crowds. 

They are as awesome as the warriors. 
There are three other buildings, and we squeeze through to make our way to all of them. Like most big sites in China, it's all one way only. 

 At another building we see other statues and parts of statues. Not one has been found intact, and we see the excavation process and learn that the rest underground will never be unearthed, in order to protect them. 
Can you see the horse's back end?

Having seen all we could, we take a break outside. No one is allowed on the grass so we all huddled on the curbs. I do the same as I write about my experiences in my journal. I am studied by Chinese students bold enough to stare and watch me write cursive left to right. The toddler beside me pulls back his open-air onesy and pees on the concrete. A vendor is selling popcorn and when another toddler on the other side of me spills her box, her mother carefully cleans it up.
Flying above us is a drone, making its way around the site. Security, we suspect. I doubt the Chinese government would allow the private citizens to fly them.

As we finally leave, we pass the thick lines of people still trying to come in, and then through the market, where I buy 3 pomegranates for 10 yuan, about $2. 

Another fabulous site under our belts. And tonight is something nearly as spectacular.


Diana said...

Terrific, Barbara. When I see photos of those warriors and their horses I want to cry, Imagine waiting patiently underground for all that time to be found...

barb phinney said...

Hi, Diana, thank you for posting.
I was blown away by the fact no two warriors look alike. Thousands of them were constructed, but they vary in height and facial features. And not one is intact, as the underground chambers they were in have long since crumbled. There are thousands left there for their own safety, too. It's an amazing place.
But the sheer volume of people going there is incredible!

Lina Gardiner said...

Love the pictures and your shared adventures.