NAME: The museum of Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang
ENTRY COST: 90 RMB/person
1 – Avoid,2 – OK if nothing better to do, 3 – Worth seeing,4 – Worth special trip, 5 – DO NOT MISS!
DESCRIPTION: Virtually anyone visiting China has seen pictures of and/or heard of the Terra-Cotta warriors of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi, and I was no exception and while I had it on my to do list, I was in no hurry to see a bunch of old clay statues, most missing their heads. However, since they are on almost every published tour itinerary of China for foreigners, I recently took the opportunity to check them out. WOW! In short, nothing in pictures or books holds a candle to standing before the real thing.
They are housed, or more correctly covered, by a non-descript Quonset hut type looking building that is deceptive from the outside as to its size. However, upon entering you are immediately struck by the size and scale of the site. Only partially unearthed even now, the Warriors stretch out in front and to the sides like the vast army they were intended to be. The smell of earth and the tomb like quiet add additional senses to the impression to complete the picture.
Created some 2200 years ago during the reign of the Emperor Qin, they were the army that would protect the entire Qin household in the next life. The entire burial site was constructed over 28 years by as many as 720,000 craftsmen, many of whom, along with thousands of government officials and all the childless wives and concubines of Qin, went their own grave or were buried alive along with the Emperor in order to keep the site a secret. The success of this intent is evidenced by the fact that the site was just rediscoverd by local farmers in 1974.
Qin is credited with creating many of China’s enduring legacies such as a common currency, language, the abolition of feudalism and a central state structure and, of course, the Great Wall. His mausoleum, even though never completely finished, was on the Chinese Grand scale that later Emperor’s and indeed even modern China, copied.
The tour begins with the unceremoniously named Pit #1. This is the aforementioned domed building of some 16,000 m2. Further excavation continues in Pits #2 and #3. Interspersed in between the pit areas are numerous halls showcasing archeological treasure such as the ˝ scale bronze horses and carriages based on those that carried the dead Emperor’s body. The time to tour all these is a good half day with light crowds. I can only imagine, based on the scope of the place, what it must be like in July and August or other Chinese holiday periods.
If you are not on a tour group, a taxi from town for the 45 minute ride to the site will cost about 200 RMB if you bargain. However, this will also include taking you to the other two main attractions connected to the Qin Dynasty, the site of the actual Mausoleum and the Qin Baths (Hua Qing Chi).
Between the arrival lot and the actual Warriors museum is quite a distance and is filled with a new (and not yet opened when I was there) commercial area of shops, restaurants and other establishments. This may add to or detract from the experience of the visit but is there now and is quite typical of the major Chinese sites.
If you speak Chinese, a Chinese guide can be enlisted to go with you for 40 RMB. An English speaking guide will cost 100 RMB. However, they are quite worth the expense and not much more expensive than renting the audio tour device for even one person. For two or more the real guide is cheaper.
Most exhibits have English translations as well as Chinese.