Thursday, August 16, 2012

On to the Terracotta Army

After my full day at the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City, I stayed at my hostel a few hours going over my next few days.  My hostel by the way was amazing.  They spoke great English and were very helpful.  They booked my overnight train tickets for Xi-an to see the Terracotta Army the night I arrived.  It was about 460 yen which was about $100 each way.  The train was 14 hours.  I left the hostel to head to the train station about 2 hours before my train left but two subway transfers later and a short taxi ride later, my time was eaten away.  The taxi drive dropped me off about a block away and I had to go into a hotel to ask for directions.  After climbing yet another 60 steps to the overpass I made it into the train station.  This was the biggest train station I have ever seen, it was bigger than many malls in the US.  I was freaking out because at this point, I had 14 min till the train left and had no clue where to go.  I had my train ticket out and was trying to show the military guards, the security, or the train station people but no one would even try to help me, they just put their hands up and shook their head.

I thought the trains must be on the bottom part so I went all the way down but still had no clue.  At this point I was in a panic.  I had 7 min to get on the train.  I stopped a young couple with an older lady and asked them but they did not know where I should go.  I looked around and knew I could not miss this train, nor could I afford to buy another ticket.  I broke down and started to cry, the couple and the old lady where distressed but as I looked around, everyone else was laughing at me, men standing on the stairs pointing down and laughing, the military guards.  The young couple finally begged with military guard to help me and though he was laughing he started to run up the stairs.  I was wearing a winter coat, gloves, a hat and had a big backpack so trying to keep up was killing me but I ran so fast up those stairs, he didnt even look back to make sure I was behind him.  We ran up 2 flights of stairs and outside, around the building to numerous huge lines.  He pushed through and people were so mad, but took me to the front of the line and the man let me in.

I get into the station and look up to see about 30 trains and lucky me, my train was was one of the last trains down a long, crowded hallway.  I had less than 2 min to get on the train, I ran so fast, possibly knocking people over, its all a blur.  I showed the lady my ticket and she rushed me to the entrance, where I ran down a long flight of stairs and jumped on the train, I am not exaggerating when I say my left foot was not even on the train before it started to pull away.   I made it.

But, I was not in the right car, in fact, I was 2 cars over.  I was dripping with sweat at this point and the hallways of the train were so narrow.  Also since the rooms are smaller than some bathrooms in the states, with only two bunk beds and a small table, there are fold out chairs in the hallway so people can sit.  Everyone was already sitting in the hallway eating ramon soup, of course (China had the larges selection of Ramon soup I had ever seem, 3  full aisle, even more than Korea).  They all had to get up, put the chair up and still I barely made it through with my backpack, I might have even spilt some Ramon, sorry.

Of course I could not find my room, luckily a nice young man who spoke English helped me.  I got to my room and looked at my bed.  I was on the top bunk because it was 25 yen cheaper of course.  The step to get up the bed was as tall as my chest, I took off all my stuff, went to the bathroom to brush my teeth and what not because I knew that once I got up on that bed, that I was not coming down.  I don't know how I did it but I flung myself up there, while hitting my head on the ceiling of course.  The three men who where sharing a room with me laughed so hard.  I didn't care, I was on that train, I put my eye mask on, ear plugs in and fell directly asleep.  I slept for 13 hours, until the train pulled into the Xi'an station.

Leaving the station, the first thing I saw was a McDonalds, and yes I ran straight to it, I was starving and had not had McDonald's breakfast in a long while. The staff in McDonalds spoke great English.  There were of course military guards everywhere, tis China.

The McDonalds was on the second floor, I went to the bottom restaurant and sat there for a bit before I realized it was not the McDonalds 

My only directions for finding the bus where to find one with green writing on it that says Terracotta Army, and that is what I did.

One I found the correct bus, the man motioned for me to get on.  I was not sure it I was suppose to buy a ticket or what.  Once the bus started filling up and one guy had to sit on the floor, I though maybe I was suppose to buy a ticket and I had taken someone's seat, but 20 into the ride, they came around and took 7 yen for the ride.  I was sitting in the back next to some rowdy men who insisted on showing me the porn they were watching on their phones.  I tried to just look out the window but they kept bothering me, finally I just told them I was going to the Terracotta Army and they of course laughed and pointed, motioning that I should get off now.  I got up and the man in the aisle took my seat as I headed towards the door, the bus driver stopped me and said no, (well when I say said I really mean in just body language).  So I was left standing for the remainder of the 30 min trip, yeah!  Finally he motioned for me to get off.  I got off in the middle of no where with no signs and so sighting of the Terracotta Army.  I just started walking and the first woman I saw at a restaurant, asked if I wanted a guide in English, I thought to myself, yes because I have no clue where this place is, but I simply asked her how much she charged and bargained her down to 120 yen which is about $20.  We took a 15 min walk to find the ticket booth, where I bought a ticket for 100 yen and a trolley ticket for 5 yen.  We rode the trolley the rest of the way.

Behind me is the start of the Terracotta Army.

This is a picture of the land before the 4 farmers found the Terra-cotta Army.  The farmers were digging wells for water when they found the army.  A farmer, a few years before was digging near the army and missed discovering the army by a few inches, boy was his luck bad.

This chariot was one of 2 that where made from metal and fabrics. 

The Clinton family with the army.

A replica of the land and the mounds.

The 2nd and largest vault.

They have discovered and reconstructed thousands of Terra-cotta soldiers to date.

The soldiers are assembled in lines with barriers separating them, which once held wooden columns to hold the wooden ceiling that shielded the army but over time the wood fell apart and collapsed down on the army, crumpling them.

They figured out that the statues where made in stages, their feet where solid and their body and heads hollow.  Their heads where attached separately and last.

Each soldier is unique, not one is like another.  The statues are exact replicas of the soldiers of the original army that protected the Emperor.  All their heads are different, their hair styles, their facial features, even their eyebrows.  Their uniforms showed their rank as well.  They also found names and numbers on each soldier in different places on the statue.

This is one of the chariots, they have yet to reconstruct any of the chariots.

This section has yet to be worked on.

This section is currently being worked on and they are piecing together each soldier piece by piece.  They find pieces and mark on a map where and what they found and then put the pieces in the same area until they have enough to assemble a soldier.

These are the most recently assembled soldiers that have yet to be put back into their place.

Even the horses had their own characteristics and where one of a kind.
I wondered in the 2nd vault for over an hour in peaceful awe of what I was seeing.  I recommend going to see the Terracotta Army, though it was an adventure to get there, it was the best $400 I ever spent.  There are no words to describe the  amazing beauty of something so wonderful.  To think of how long they spent building the army, the detail they put into each soldier, the incredible work that took place over decades astonishes me.

This is the 3rd vault, where the Emperor's body lies.

When the soldier's were first discovered, they were all painted in stunning detail but as soon as the paint was exposed to air, shortly after it started to fade and  peal away.  Just recently, they created something to keep the paint from fading and pealing that they are putting on the soldiers as they dig them up. 

Behind the guards that once where controlling a chariot, is the tomb of the Emperor.

Yes that is me!  Don't I fit in nicely?

Look at the detail in just the hair.

This was the only soldier that was found undamaged, whole.

By the big belly, you can tell he was in high rank and very wealthy....I wish that was the case for big bellies now a days.

Their shoes also show their status, the higher the end of the shoes curls up the more important they were.

Notice the shoes:  low rank.

This is a picture of how they were found, with the paint.

This is the 2nd vault, it has yet to be dug or worked on.

In the store, the last surviving farmer, who discovered the Terracotta Army was there signing the new book about the Terracotta Army, of course I bought it and he signed it for me, as well as some postcards.
I wanted to buy a small replica of the soldiers made from the same Terracotta Army but I could not afford the prices.  I was sad but while I was walking out, I crossed a man selling the same Terracotta soldiers for 1/4 the price so after bargaining with the man and walking away once, I got 4 soldiers and a horse for 70 yen instead of over 600 yen in the store, I was beaming.

My tour guide.
My trip back to the train station was a disaster.  My instructions were to flag down a bus on the deserted highway and ask if they were going to the train station and so that is what I did.  I get on the bus an notice I am the only one on the bus with too creepy men smoking and staring at me.  I should have before but at that moment, I took off my engagement ring and put it in my pocket.  About 20 min into the ride, I started to think of escape plans, ok jump out the window, do I throw my backpack out first, no forget the backpack just go.  The bus stops in a small town and the men start yelling and physically grabbing people to try and get them on the bus and grown men are saying no,  now Im wondering why no one wants to get on the bus, I'm a bit scared at this point but to get off might be worse, in a small poor village where no one speaks English and they don't like Americans, nor women by them selves.  Finally, a woman with a baby and a girl in high heels get on the bus and my first thoughts is, well now I'm not the weakest link, I can run faster then them, I'm going to make it after all ( I know it's mean but this is survival).  We continue to drive around picking random people up, no apparent bus stops just calling people off the street to get on the bus.  I figured out that this is not a real bus, simply some men with a bus who want to make some, just my luck.  After about 2 1/2 hours of driving around and dropping people off, we make it tot he train station.  Now I had wanted to see the Ming tombs and such but you would be fooling yourself to think I was getting on another bus in  I had 5 hours until my train left, 1 1/2 hours in the KFC and another 3 1/2 hours at the McDonalds was good enough for me.  Xi'an was a very poor town, scary even.  The streets were littered with homeless and the people just looked unhappy.  A man came up to me and tried to yank my backpack off, which was buckled to me, and when I looked at him, he looked back at me, like 'what'.  I was spit on and the only foreigner I saw the whole time I was in Xi'an.  If foreigners go there they must stay in their hotels, and I don't blame them, these people did not want to see me, what they thought was a rich white girl on vacation.

My view from McDonalds for 3 1/2 hours.  I read the book I bought though :)  The Military guard started to creep me out after a while though.  He would come stand next to me and stare down at me, once I caught him watching me from across the room with binnaculars , I left shortly after.

I watched this man for 3 hours and he never moved, when I went down there, I tried to give him money and nudged him, I swear he was dead, it was quiet cold out.

When I tried to find which line to stand in, I asked a Military guard who pointed and as I went that why, him and his friend laughed at me, it was the wrong way, thanks.  Once inside the train station, I asked some female military guards, who were supper nice, spoke English and walked me to my destination, which was a special room for old people so I could sit and wait safely. They also spoke to the women in the room and they told me personally when to board my train.  I was on time!

Welcome to the wonderful dirty squatters of China, no real toilets, the smell was worse than dead animals.  

What an adventure, I was happy to be heading back to Beijing, but  again, totally worth the trip.

My amazing bed!

The spacious rooms.

Beijing train station, I was never so happy.

A store of Ramon.  Always makes me smile!
This was the end of my fourth day and start of my 5th day in China.