Today is what I would like to call the ‘day of clay’, and I’ll tell you, that I have never seen so much clay in my life. We are started our fortuitous day with the too common 7am breakfast in which everyone looked dreary to say the least and then checked out of our hotel at 8. The hotel was rather nice if I say so myself, however, the added feature of the electric blinds on the shower was not so welcome! They opened up for the world to see, well technically the rather lovely view of the Xi’an skyline from our 25/26th floor rooms.

Our first visit of the day was the Replica Terracotta Army Factory in Xi’an, the only place in the world authorised by the Chinese Government to make replicas of the soldiers using the same clay, extracted from the same mountain, that was used to create the original soldiers for the First Qin Emporer’s tomb. Whilst we were there, they explained the process of how they make the soldiers and that overall it takes over 6 months to create the life size soldiers with at least 3 months of this as drying time for the soldiers, so you can see that it takes a large amount of time and hard work, but this is with our modern tools. Imagine how hard it would be to construct over 8,000 soldiers in the Emporer’s tomb, an amazing feat over 2,200 years ago. After our explanation of the process, we had the ‘special’ opportunity to buy some of the smaller soldiers made in the factory at a discounted price. After our small trading ventures in the factory, we piled back onto the coach and had another 40 minute drive to our next sight of the day.

We arrived at the Qin tomb and instantly were plagued by passport and bag checks in order to enter the museum, a small price to pay for the wonders we were about to witness. The Emporer’s burial mound, which stands over 150m tall and much, much wider, has not been opened to show the artifacts and other ancient wonders which lie in the underground palace beneath the mound. There are, however, over 600 burial pits around the mound which contain items of the Emporer’s daily life which he felt he needed in his next life. Of the 600 pits 3 are open to the public and only 7 have been excavated in total, so we only know a tiny amount of the scale and content of the Emporer’s tomb. As each pit is huge and contains thousands of artifacts, 600 of them equals a long time to build, around 38 years to be exact. Talking about dates, it was on this day 42 years ago that the Terracotta Army was discovered by a troop of farmers trying to find water by digging for water. What they did find however, was the eighth wonder of the world and it was fantastic! Each of the faces and bodies of the 8,000 soldiers are carved perfectly to the finest detail, each one with different face and unique personality. The stature and standing of the soldiers makes a perfect living snapshot of the Qin Army in 200 BC, ready to protect their Emporer at any point in his afterlife. The first pit contained the majority of soldiers, including a full Qin battle formation of fronting Archers, flanking cavalry, officers and the infantry, a perfect contingent of the army. The second pit also contained a fully complete soldier, not a scratch on him, the only full soldier discovered so far; an amazing achievement for him to survive for over 2,200 years. The third pit has been identified as the command centre for the Qin army and it only contains around 70 soldiers, including the General of the Army, who would be there to command all the soldiers in the First Emporer’s afterlife. Although all of the artifacts contained within the tomb are spectacular there is perhaps one thing that is more astounding than any artifact dug out from the past, the great loss of life that occurred to construct the tomb. Around 670,000 workers worked on the building in some way or another and every single one of them was killed. The reason? Secrecy. Everyone that worked on the tomb was killed and then buried nearby so that no-one knew of the existence of the tomb as many people would try and break into the tomb and rob the treasures if they knew of its existence. You can see the Emporer went to great lengths to protect his future comfort.

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The final experience of the day was the Overnight Train (editorial comment: more passport and bag checks!) that I am currently ‘experiencing’ now in all its luxury… Well now we’re all off to Shanghai for our final day in China. It’ll be such a shame to leave but China has been such an amazing experience for all of us and we’re all very grateful for this experience. Goodnight.

Blogged by Luke Bissett

(Photos to follow – Blogging from the train again)