Saturday, March 29, 2008


Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province is renowned for its link to the ancient Chinese ruler of Qin Shi Huang, whose tomb lays some 30km from the city center. As mentioned in my previous post, Xi’an has seen an economic revival due to the tourist industry, and so predictably, the area surrounding the Terracotta Warriors may well be the world’s first resort town composed entirely of concrete. Restaurants, hotels and shops are plentiful, all playing off the fame of the Terracotta centrepiece.
This was my second visit to Xi’an and the Warriors, and the tourist infrastructure has developed greatly in the 30 months since I first visited. True, the Brother-sponsored tickets are still around en masse, but restaurants and shops are everywhere, as well as a smattering of hostels and hotels.
The aura within the public pit complex is different. The clientele back then was slightly more purist, with archaeological aficionados here and there. Now, there are swarms of people wherever you look, from all economic thresholds and all nations.
But the awe had long disappeared from my imagination. “All” I saw was essentially a toy army. A simplistic way of looking at things, but accurate nonetheless. A terracotta state of mind, you might say.
Perhaps this would not be the case if I was able to rid myself of the nagging doubts of the story of the Warriors. For such ornate figures to still be intact 2200 years after their alleged construction. Sure, I believe they were constructed, but the fabrication theory seeps in once the story of the Warriors is examined. It is alleged that thousands of peasants burst into Qin’s tomb and smashed many of the warriors. But the Terracotta Army was “discovered” in 1978, two years after the end of the Cultural Revolution. Mao destroyed many ancient artefacts, and for a site of such magnitude to be passed over by the ferocious Red Guards. It just seems a bit stretched.
This may be the result of a somewhat terracotta state of mind, but terracotta evidence must be established before that state of mind is shattered.

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