Our more eagle-eyed readers will spot that this entry is out of sequence. Simon, quite rightly, got fed up with waiting for me and already posted Saturday’s entry – I hope that doesn’t confuse anyone.
Anyway, ‘today’ was the day for the the Terracota Warriors – the “8th Wonder of the World”. (Karen and I calculated it’s the tenth 8th. W.O.T.W. we’ve seen) .
Well they are damned impressive. As most of you doubtless know, these thousands of warriors, horses and chariots were buried with Emperor Qin (pronounced as in double chin) in the 3rd. century BC and re-discovered by some local farmers digging a well in 1974. But what many of you may not know (and I certainly didn’t) is that when they were found, they were all in thousands of little pieces, having been smashed by early Milwall supporters and the collapse of the pit roofs. Only one – yes ONLY ONE – of the warriors was found intact.
So all these thousands of warriors are being painstakingly reassembled by a team of very patient, keen-eyed archaeologists – like the world-s largest 3D jigsaw. (We did come up with the cool idea that rather than selling just reproductions of the warriors, the gift shop should also offer boxes of smashed up ones as puzzles for Madge and her friends).
Even with the (sadly predictable) square miles of concrete around the site covered with retail opportunities and all the guides screaming through amplifiers, the first glimpse of the warriors takes your breath away. And, as you absorb the monumental scale of Qin’s vanity, the significance of the fact that each one is unique slowly dawns on you: this was not just some Henry Ford operation Qin had going here, it was a colossal community of artists and craftsmen.
The scope of it took me back to our stop in Ashkabat in Turkmenistan – an entire modern city built to satisfy the vanity of one man, the Turkmenbashi, current holder of the World’s Nuttiest Ruler title. Maybe some day visitors will flock there to marvel at the magnificent madness of it all?
And speaking of magnificent madness, we found this remarkable likeness of Simon among the warriors…
And we couldn’t resist this ‘end-of-the-pier’ photo op….
So, after the warriors it was on to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda that was built in the 7th century (we’re talking old here) to house the Buddhist sutras brought back to India by Xuanzang. Had there been BMW 1200s in those days he would doubtless have ridden one to and from India and become the God of Grey Silk Riders.
Susan kept asking our guide Sarah “Why did Xuanzang bring dog trees back from India,?”until she figured out that Sarah was saying ‘doctrines’.
For my part, I was most impressed with this Swiss Army Knife Buddha. This is a god worth worshipping…
And we climbed hundreds of pagoda stairs to get a better view of the smog…
In the evening we returned to the hustle-bustle world of the Muslim sector where Richard’s pal Ching-Ann took us to one of his favorite restaurants – a noisy Dickensian chaos, famous for its steamed dumplings.
And finally, maybe our bravest moment in the whole trip, a tuk-tuk ride back to the hotel with an insane driver through insane Xianian traffic…
Best to you all and love to my family,