I was finally able to get to Xi’an after many, many years of wanting to go. When I first went to China, I met one of my closest friends by coincident. He was working out in front of the foreign languages building at Beijing Normal University and I walked by on one of my extremely unusual late night walks. We discovered our mutual love of history and that is how one of my closes friends was added to a very short list. I promised him that if I ever went to Xi’an, he would accompany me. However, life keeps getting in the way. First, he got married, then divorced. Then he had a wonderful son named Bruce. Now he is finishing writing his dissertation in International Studies. The man is always busy, so I decided to go by myself.
Let me tell you, Xi’an is hot in June. Plenty of people told me this, but there was nothing to do about it. I got to the city and was told my hostel had no rooms. They refunded my money and kinda, sorta helped me find another place. Sorta. The new place was sufficient though. The first full day I went to the Shaanxi provincial museum, considered one of the best in China. It was excellent. There were so many artifacts on display. The great thing about the place was they have a limited number of free tickets and I was able to receive one. The bad thing was all of China was in there with me. There were several times that I was almost crushed to death by groups of tourists. I could have been a new display there. I left there and went to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.
The next day I got really early to go see the Terracotta Warriors (兵马俑). I met a Chinese-Australian family who were also visiting the site. I was able to play tour guide a little for one of their daughters (don’t think that way – I’m a nerd and was just showing off my love of history). Seeing the soldiers was a highlight of my accumulated adventures. You could see the individualism of the face and heads, as well of some paint residue on them in the museum. That was the only place you could get really close to one.
After the soldiers, I went to his funerary mound and walked all over it. It is a mountain. His tomb has never been opened, but when technology has evolved to be able open the tomb safely (the artifacts are damaged by oxidation), there will be such a find to surpass that of Tutankhamun.
The next day I had a solo trip to another museum in the city, called Banpo. To me, this was equally interesting. The village that was discovered existed about 2000 or more years before the Qin. The grave goods discovered there are fascinating in a different way. The Terracotta Soldiers and the tomb are about excess – Imperial, individual, megalomaniacal. The ones at the village museum are personal as well, only the possessions of an every man (or woman) for everyday use. They were much more real in that way, in that they were used. A silent cry of history rather than a huge shout from a single man, even if he was the most powerful man in the world at that time.