All pictures taken: Terracotta Warriors Museum, Xi'an, China.
Date: December 6, 2010.
Camera: Panasonic TZ3.
In 1976 two peasant farmers digging a well on their land discovered what must surely be one of the world's greatest ancient wonders: more than 8,000 clay soldiers, complete with horses and chariots, standing in battle formation under the earth.
Yesterday we visited this amazing archaeological site, about an hour's bus drive from our hotel in Xi'an.
The soldiers, all incredibly life-like (no two faces are alike), were commissioned by Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China, who seems to have had a bit of a God complex: all the thousands of builders who worked on the project, including his nearby mausoleum, were buried alive or killed after the scheme was completed in order to keep the location secret. He also believed they would accompany him to the Afterlife.
There are currently three pits open to the public. The first (pictured above) is by far the most impressive, as it shows row upon row of clay warriors in what can only be described as an aircraft hanger. Two other pits show the warriors in various states of excavation.
What I found most surprising is that those warriors on display are just a fraction of those still buried under ground. Apparently those still to be unearthed are painted in bright colours, but as soon as the colours are exposed to the air they oxidise very rapidly, hence it's better to keep them where they are until scientists can come up with a method of preserving the colour.
Even in their "raw", or exposed, state, they are a stunning sight. I was quite partial to the horses, more than anything. The chariots they were pulling have since disintegrated, because they were made of wood.
Oh, and did I point out that all these soldiers and horses were created some 2,200 years ago? And that one of the farmers who discovered this site was at the museum when we were there -- a very cheery man, well looked after by the Chinese government we were told, signing books about the warriors. However, if you wanted a photograph of him you had to pay a fee. Needless to say, I didn't see many people taking snaps of him...