Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Xi’an–Terracotta Warriors & Horses



Have you ever watched Antiques Roadshow from the UK?  They are constantly appraising items that are many hundreds of years old.  Then there are the US episodes where most of the items are from the late 18th or 19th (even 20th) centuries.  Seeing history is pretty cool…and I think most of us find that the older the items the better…

One of the beauties of where we live is that history surrounds us. 

So imagine what it is like to be in the presence of something that was created in 210-209 BC.   It is just jaw-dropping awe-inspiring!

I traveled to Xi’an (depending on who you talk to is how you pronounce it…I have taken to saying “shee’awn”) with three friends.  Traveling in China, especially places not known for having much English, it is best to hire a guide.  Doyle, our FABULOUS guide in Beijing, connected us with an agency and our guide, Eric.

Xi’an is the capital of the Shaanxi Province. 

SO…the Warriors and Horses were buried to protect the first Emperor of the Qing dynasty.  It went undiscovered for thousands of years, which was odd and incredibly lucky.

First, the emperors were known for being buried with riches and protection. There are Tombs all over China (hills) with leaders and their treasures buried.  Many are undisturbed…OR…if disturbed…ravaged, yet marked with who was there.

I am positive that historians were curious why the very first Emperor did not have legions around him.  Other emperors did…but this one was a mystery.  It ends up, that this Emperor had his legions (protectors) buried over a kilometer away from his tomb.

Then…one day in the 1970’s …a group of farmers digging drainage ditches discovered a piece of a warrior.  Then more…The government was called in …digs proceeded, and VOILA…probably one of the richest historical finds of China was revealed. The timing could not have been better.

SO…we arrive and are greeted by our guide.  We had our Beijing guide (Love Doyle) help connect us with a guide for Xi’an.  China is MUCH easier with a personal guide…and it is just not that expensive,  In China…having a guide…and separate driver is helpful b/c of the crowds and difficulty in parking…AND…in complete contrast to Hong Kong…it’s just not THAT easy to get around.

Our first night we walked around our Hotel…street food was really the only fair, and some of us were not that interested in trying .

IMG_9127IMG_9128 I have found that there are bar areas in most cities…these two were particularly fun to look at.  No one wanted to stop…sadly.

I think this was because language is an issue.  Communicating is tougher…so to avoid miscommunication and, well, mystery meat, we ate in the Concierge area and had wine. 

Be adventurous.  Dinner was awful, yet wine filled.

The next day dawned to our extended trip to the Terracotta Warriors!

Our guide and driver met us.  The night before I had read up on the area because we were scolded by ‘Eric’ for “never reading a book?”  (Love a good internet search…it’s where I got the info for above!)

We headed straight to The Warriors for an extended stay.  We had a walk in from where the driver dropped us.  There were some statues and stores not yet open. We kept going…we were on a mission.

Eric paid our fees and off we walked towards the digs..

China has done some great work here.  Timing truly WAS everything.  Mao didn’t get here.  They are still exploring and expanding.

IMG_9229IMG_9232You walk past the “scenic spot AND the big horses to get to the digs:


See the sky…I guess this was a GOOD day.  Xi’an is terribly polluted, and the sky is NEVER blue!

We enter the first building:


The first dig is the biggest and the brightest when it comes to lighting.  Sadly, and of no one’s fault,  the Chinese had no idea what would happen when the Warriors were exposed to air.  Maybe very sophisticated Universities would have known…but, within minutes of exposure, the paint, which EVERY Warrior was covered with, began to peal. 

If you are VERY special, you get to go to a lower, yet closer, viewing platform.  The days of walking amongst the Warriors has passed…at least from what we saw.  There was an Irish diplomat there…not sure who…and they stayed below us.  I must say, I was quite satisfied with our view. 

I think a camera with a super zoom would be awesome…but I use my cropping function on my pics, and that seems to work.

IMG_9137 Here is the sign for Pit 1. It tells the size (11 corridors divided by 10 walls, then the entire thing covered  by dirt)  I am thankful for such signs!

So here is how the historians have recreated the columns:

IMG_9141IMG_9138 See, the thing is…ONLY ONE  of the estimated 8,000 figures was found in tact. All of the pieces you see here have been painstakingly put back together…one head, one arm, one hand, one foot at a time.  And the work is ongoing!

I need to take a writing course to tell you how awe inspiring this whole thing was.  My mother did not own a passport, yet here I was, among pieces of history buried in the 2nd century BC.  I had tears in my eyes more than once this day.  I know I felt the same thing when I was in the Yunnan Province looking at The Himalayas.  I am blessed…I can not say this enough.

Eric pointed out to us a “hole” in the walls between the rows of warriors. 

IMG_9157 This was a tomb.  It seems, that during the years and years and years since the Warriors were buried, the area was a farmland.  And during those years, those farmers died,to be buried in the land they worked.  In ALL OF THOSE YEARS, with all of those buried…all of the tombs “just missed” discovering The Warriors.  Because, here’s the thing…if any of this had been discovered during The Cultural Revolution…THE WHOLE THING WOULD HAVE/COULD HAVE BEEN DESTROYED.   Mao’s Cultural Revolution would have seen to all of that.  All of it.  Look at that hole…dug “just so” in the wall that separated one row of Warriors from another…this is just another indication to me that higher beings are at work.

We got to see bits and pieces of Warriors being put back together. 

IMG_9153 You can see here that some heads have not yet been found to match to the bodies.  Speaking of heads…EACH face is unique. Yes, each one.-and each one was individually painted

The workers are right there in the pits for us to see. IMG_9165IMG_9163 

Each Pit is a work in progress.

Here is a slight attempt to show you the scope of Pit 1


I could not miss this opportunity to pose with my Terrible Towel.  My travel mates were very accommodating, and the people around me were quite curious.  Our guide explained many times that it was a “football” thing…but I’m sure everyone was thinking soccer

IMG_9146 I’m afraid this picture did not pic up NEARLY as much traction on twitter with Steelers groups…it seems truly “recognizable” places are more the flavor of  the fans (thus  the popularity of The Leaning Tower of Pisa )

We walked down the entirety of this pit and saw horses, and statues being worked on.  There were “staging areas”.  As things were ;unearthed, they were brought to areas, tagged, and cataloged.  Each piece waited for something…


We moved to the next Pit.  Here you can see how things were truly found:

IMG_9178 IMG_9224IMG_9222IMG_9221IMG_9220The top two pictures are mine…the rest are pictures of pictures…taken before all things disintegrated. 

From this….err…mess??…came ALL those Warriors you just saw in rows in Pit 1! 

This Pit was the “Headquarters” of the group protecting the Emperor.  The historians could tell this because there was just one “in and one out”…Here are the horses protecting that entrance:

IMG_9184  This is the Pit where there are pictures of what The Warriors looked like when they were unearthed.  As I said before, sadly, they did not remain this way, as atmospheric conditions deteriorated them quickly.


Like I said…there is ONE warrior that came out whole.  He is encased and to this day you can still see just a bit of color from being painted.

IMG_9204IMG_9201 Look closely at the picture of his back…you can see the red paint.

IMG_9225Here is the official photo from all sides that is close to where the kneeling archer is today.  it shows the colors better.  They got it in a case…but not fast enough to keep it from breaking down.

IMG_9214 What amazes me about most civilizations is that they all came up with some version of arrowheads for hunting. All over the world…centuries and thousands of mile apart…and the same innovation strikes.

We finished our tour here and headed out to lunch.  We had more to do today, but I can tell you…I’m not sure what I have seen or will see that could have topped this site.

I’m going to end this here.  We had a whole afternoon to fill, but this is long enough and I truly could go on and on!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Santa Croce Church-Where the BIGGIES are Buried!


Our weekend was glorious and sunny.  Monday dawned overcast and cool.  Today I was meeting Kari after her first class to get a little touring in before her 2nd class.

We managed to get to the Medici Library, and planned to go back in the afternoon for the rest of the sights.

The Library was awesome!  The floor and ceiling are reflections of each other…just one made of tile one made of wood:

IMG_9035IMG_9034 We figured it out b/c of the animal head at the top…the tile floor is half covered to protect it, but it’s there!

The cool thing on display was a limited exhibit on books and printing from Asia.  It was so strange to see Arabic books in this library


The actual library was not vast…and the “seating areas” themselves were small. I think once again it shows how humans have grown over the years.

IMG_9044IMG_9042 (I don’t think the chairs in there now are original…do you?)

The entryway to the library is impressive…I wonder if the alcoves had statues in them at one time?


Kari went off to class and I was charged with finding two things.

When we were here in 2000, we had a walking tour and it stopped at a Panini place where we had a sandwich and glass of wine.  This is a literal hole in the wall and outside of it are two shelves.  The shelves have numbers so you can put your wine up there and know which one is yours.    Second…I was to make my way to Santa Croce.

I found the sandwich shop no problem! Kari’s directions were perfect (turn left at the street BEFORE Zara).  It was a super cheap lunch (3.50 Euro for sandwich and drink) and it was pretty yummy.  One again you gauge places based on the locals there…I was early, but as I was finishing the locals started showing. 

Next, I had to make my way To Santa Croce.  I had two maps…and started to walk.  I did have a couple mis-turns…but I made it in good order.  (very proud)

Here is a pic from the top of The Duomo of Santa Croce

IMG_8771(it’s the big white thing in the rear…)

Santa Croce is 14th Century Franciscan Church.  If memory serves me…it was also a nunnery (will check Wikipedia for this !)

After admission and audio guide were paid for…off I went.  The audio guide has a map with numbers…since Santa Croce is still a “working” church…they don’t mark the “exhibits” (tombs, alters, etc) with numbers like can in museums.

Santa Croce, like many many places, is under renovation.  The main alter was under scaffolding, but you could see the frescos and crucifix. You could also see the workers up there doing the restorations.  There is a tour you can take later in the day, but it did not fit into my schedule. 

IMG_9052 Yes…you are allowed to take pictures here…just no flash!

SO…the big draw to Santa Croce is who is buried here.

When Santa Croce was built, it was a burial ground for the local people…most of which were poor.  Then, later, two of Florence’s main guys wanted to be buried here and the flood gates opened…and ALL the prominent people wanted in. (people were dying to get in there!)

The floor is literally covered with marble slabs, under which are the remains of Florence citizens.  The balance comes from these slabs being there as art.  The people buried there KNEW they would be trodden on, and that was ok with them, since the thought was humbling.  Also, though, the marble has to be protected and preserved…so at various times some of them are covered.

The first big “celebrity” (to me) is Galileo Galilei.  This man who flew in the face of The Church w/his theories on science.  He lived under house arrest near Florence because he defied the church by saying the earth revolved around the sun.  Now…Rome said he could not be buried on “blessed” ground…so, The Franciscans took his remains and secretly buried them in the Santa Croce until they could publically give him a place of honor. (Gotta love 17th century rebels)

IMG_9062 You can see right below his bust is an “homage” to the solar system.

IMG_9060 Buried with him now are his daughters and favorite student.

The other “biggie” is Michelangelo.

IMG_9066IMG_9064IMG_9063IMG_9068He did NOT want to be buried here…and in fact was quite insistent he NOT be buried in Florence.  He wanted to be buried in Rome. But with money comes influence and here he is.

The Three sculptures you see in the last picture represent Painting, Sculpture and Architecture…all things Michelangelo was well known for.

As with all things old…there is a lot of decay. 

There was a terrible flood in the church in 1966, and under the destroyed frescos, charcoal drawings were found


I did find another “AWA” group.  This is “Advancing Women Artists” and is an American organization that is dedicated to lifting Female artists in Florence from obscurity.



Here are a few more pictures from Santa Croce…I think one of my favorite places and I will go back and give it more time the next time I am here.

IMG_9088IMG_9085IMG_9083IMG_9081IMG_9075 This last picture is from the area where there are many many people buried.  The floor is literally wall to wall w/names and dates…and the walls themselves have crypts.

I made my way back to Kari for more touring…this time w/no wrong turns.  Now she is working, I am blogging, and we are having a quiet afternoon.  Not a bad way to start winding down the trip.