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28
Dec
2010
Terracotta Warriors E-mail
Reviews - Travel
Written by Matthew Grist
Today we visited the tomb and mausoleum of Emperor Jing of Han, which is a comfortable 90 minutes or so from our accommodation in Xi'an. The tombs were built between 153 and 126 BC, and there are many other tombs in the vicinity, of other Han emperors, as well as of less prestigious personages, right down to a prisoners’ graveyard.

There are museums housing artefacts retrieved from the tombs, the foundations of ruined buildings from the period, and the remains of an imposing double gatehouse that has been excavated and then had a large, protective structure built over it in the style of what the original building is supposed to have looked like. It was amazing to look at the huge, mud-brick ramparts, with some remaining tiles, flagstones and even traces of timber beams, and to think that the structure I was looking at, on the other side of a small railing, had been built some 2200 years ago.

There is also a fascinating “underground museum” where the emperor’s funerary accoutrements were interred, to accompany him into the afterlife. Here we saw the pits where his famous male and female cavalry and infantry figurines were discovered, and viewed many artefacts in-situ.

The funerary artefacts here are on a much smaller scale than the Qin dynasty Terracotta Warriors (which predate this site,) and are more stylised also. Aesthetics, workmanship and attention to detail cannot be faulted, however, and the site itself is very imposing also. Just to see the artificial mounds in which the emperor and empress Wang were each respectively laid to rest, in the context of an otherwise uniformly level plain, makes the trip worthwhile.

Furthermore, in the museums, visitors can get much closer to the artefacts on display than is possible at the Bing Ma Yong (Terracotta Army) and, in the underground museum, get much closer to the excavation pits – even walking above them on a glass floor! Visitors are also required to wear protective shoe covers, and the lighting level is very low. This, together with the climate control equipment in use, gives the impression that the site is being well cared for and preserved for the future.

The district was apparently used for burials through until quite recent times, and we were told that some of the items for sale were not reproductions, since objects less than 250 years old may legally be taken out of the country. The price tags certainly gave the impression that these artefacts were genuine! At this site there were considerably fewer visitors than at the Terracotta Army, and there were no pushy hawkers or tour guides pestering us. Its cultural, historical and artistic interest, however, for me were at least equal to the more famous site, and the more relaxed, less crowded feel made it a very enjoyable day.

The sun was very warm, and there was not a hint of a breeze, so we were very comfortable. (All the ice has melted in the pond here on campus, so I judge that the recent cold snap has come to an end, for now.)

Our valuable Editor Matthew Grist has been with us since Tuesday, 28 December 2010.

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