Friday, December 24, 2010

The Terra Cotta Army

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Seeing the Terracotta Warriors in person was a highlight of my trip in China. They are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and any many Chinese say a visit to China is incomplete without a visit to the warriors. The figures date back to 210 BC, but they were not discovered until 1974 when three local farmers were digging a well. When you visit the third pavilion with the warriors in it you can see the spot where the original well was. If it had been just a few feet in another direction the warriors may have continued to remain a secret. The warriors were created by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The warriors were created to protect him in his afterlife. His tomb is nearby, but remains closed because it is surrounded by an underground river of mercury and scientists have yet to discover how to safely get inside it. The majority of the Terracotta that has been excavated are soldiers, but there are also acrobats, exotic animals, chariots and more that are being excavated now. When the warriors were originally found they were painted in bright colors, but the paint oxidized and all the color was lost after two weeks. The excavation of the warriors has now stopped temporarily until a method can be found to preserve the color. The Terracotta Army is a little over an hour out of the city and most hotels can arrange for a car to take you or there is an inexpensive bus that you can take from the bus station. There are official guides employed by the site who you can hire to show you around and explain the history of the warriors.
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