Xi'an--September 4, 2004--Terra Cotta Warriors, Tang Dynasty Theater
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Most visitors to China consider a visit to the terra cotta warriors at Xi'an to be almost as much of a highlight of their trip as a visit to the Great Wall. This morning we started our day by visiting the warriors and the experience did not disappoint. Early during our site visit, we took in a Circle Vision Movie about the history of the site. The film, like several at EPCOT, was shown in a 360° configuration, which the audience watched while standing.
Next, we visited four pits with the largest being Pit No. 1 where 6,000 of the 8,000 soldiers and horses are located (14-27). These artifacts were not discovered until 1974 when farmers digging a well made the initial discovery. As the story unfolded, the figures were attributed to Emperor Qinshi Huangdi who supposedly had some 700,000 persons working on their construction 2,200 years ago. He ruled for only eleven years, dying in 210 B.C., but historians say he was a ruthless emperor who burned most of China's books but also started the Great Wall and standardized Chinese script and weights and measures.
The figures are pottery and many of the warriors originally carried bronze weapons, which today are either lost or kept in storage. The warriors are about six feet tall and no two are alike. They were originally vividly painted but the artwork has faded. The figures face east, away from the emperor's tomb.
A small hall near Pit 1 contains the two bronze chariots which were reconstructed from about 3,500 shattered pieces (28-29).
Although it appears that there is still much remaining work to be done in all of the pits (14-37), we were told that only a modest amount of additional labor is employed at these sites. Instead, archaeologists are concentrating on other tombs in the area where their scarce resources may discover something unique rather than "more of the same."
After a fascinating morning visit to these pits, we adjourned for lunch at the nearby restaurant where we watched the chefs put on quite a noodle-making demonstration during lunch.
We bussed back into town for a short rest before departing for dinner at the Tang Dynasty Theater. The Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) is considered the highlight of Xi'an's history during the period when Chinese emperors ruled from there.
The venue was the same restaurant where we had a relatively simple lunch the day before, but, for dinner, it was a much more elaborate presentation. Designed for English-speaking tourists by a Hong Kong entrepreneur, this is a lavish dinner-theater featuring a six course dinner with free flowing rice wine, spectacular costumes and wonderful music and costumes. One of the highlights of the show is the performance of the Spring Oriole's Song on a vertical bamboo flute (48).
After the show, which the tour group thoroughly enjoyed, we drove back to the hotel and passed by the town's centerpiece, the Ming Bell Tower (52). It is at the intersection of the town's main roads, which connect to the city's four gates entering the walls of the old city.
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