Terracotta Warriors and feline fashion
On the 29th March 1974, two Chinese farmers were congratulating each other at having found a decent spot for the village well when they stumbled across what turned out to be 8,000 life-sized terracotta warriors, lain undisturbed for more than 2,000 years. Buried 30km outside of Xi’an, the army was built to protect Qin Shihuangdi, the first Emperor of China, as he entered the afterlife.
How much celebration was had amongst the local villagers who, still awaiting a watering hole, were turfed out to make way for the diggers, we cannot be sure. But what we do know is the rest of the world was gifted with one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century.
We arrived at the eight wonder of the ancient world without enough money to buy a ticket and after two hours of mis-communication, traipsing and hand gesturing, established there was no cash point and they didn’t accept credit cards. It was with heavy hearts that we were forced to break our solemn no-taxi vow and took our first cab in two months – to the nearest ATM, three miles down the road.
Finally, we entered the largest site of the warriors. The original location of the well was still visible, marked by a small sign at very front of the pit and put the scale of the find into context. The place was massive. A huge aircraft hanger with domed roof and hundreds of armoured figures aligned in perfect rows, stretching into the distance.
Each warrior is completely unique. Some carry weapons, others ride chariots or lead horses and to stare out at that multitude of silent, grey, unmoving faces was a little eerie. It took 700,000 workers several years to build the Terracotta Army. Big effort for one guy? Incredibly, despite being discovered 40 years ago, archaeologists are yet to uncover vast swathes of the area.
We left the ancient mausoleum, awed by the disciplined craftsmanship of this 2,000-year-old civilisation to discover Alsatian-skin rugs on sale in the gift shop. Next to hats. Made of cats…
The sellers assured us these were in fact “wolfskin” and “mink”. We remain unconvinced.
That night we bid farewell to Xian and the Chinese family that had put us up in their cosy homestead and force fed us spicy rice with pork buns for breakfast. We were off to the countryside…
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