This really was an astounding trip. I was expecting something nice but it was a thousand percent better. So let me explain.
I’ve been to a few world heritage sites (Victoria Falls, Petra, Blue Mosque, Robben Island) and with the exception of the monuments in Washington, the caretakers normally rest on their laurels and put very little back into the sites. On the total opposite end of the spectrum I can’t think of even one area where the curators at the terracotta warriors can do better.
The buildings housing the diggings and exhibits are polished granite and stainless steel and architecturally brilliant. They have arranged the whole site in a way which builds intrigue and awe as you move forward, and the diggings are just so well thought out. They’ve purposely left some parts uncovered so you can what was there before, some other areas half exposed, and the fully exposed warriors are gob smacking.
Here’s a few pictures leading into the site and then the covering buildings and museum.
(Note the absence of massed crowds!)
The entrance ticket was RMB 150 (just over R230) and I initially thought that was a bit naughty, but at the end you realise that they must have pumped BILLIONS back into the site over the last 40 years from when the first warrior was discovered.
The whole site is the largest burial ground in the world (56 square kilometers). One of the ancient Chinese emperors from 200 BC have a 100m high earth pyramid built for his tomb (it is now a gentle hill due to weathering over the centuries) and then recreated the infrastructure of his earthly kingdom underground! There’s probably another 100 years of excavating to do on the site and what they’ve tackled first are the warriors. He basically built an entire army underground for his afterlife – it is estimated that the army, when uncovered, will total around 6000.
Just like the Great Wall you can’t take photos that can illustrate the immensity of it all; here’s just a taste below. Sylvia, Kingsley and Ashley, I don’t know how you guys would have got on in China, but I’m really sad that you weren’t with me today. It’s always nicer to share something like this with your loved ones.