The Road to Everest

Great Tour of China Day 5
May 5, 2006,

Terracotta warriors
Today we visited the 2,000-year old Army of Terracotta Warriors, which stands at 6,000-strong and rising. The warriors are located some 30km outside of Xi’an in beautifully maintained buildings and surrounding gardens.

These artifacts were initially uncovered when a farmer chanced upon them whilst digging a well in the 1970s. Since this first discovery, further vaults have been found and there are many pits across this vast area that remain to be examined.

Historians have deduced that it took 700,000 workers 36 years to create these figures, only for them to be destroyed and burnt by the subsequent Emperor of the Han Dynasty.

In the main hall there are three large pits near the location of the initial discovery. These contain mainly foot soldiers, together with some horses. Archeologists have spent the last 30 years piecing together the warriors one by one in a ‘jigsaw’ fashion. Unfortunately, some were so badly damaged by the Han pit raid that they will forever remain headless.

In the second hall we were able to meet the famous discoverer-farmer himself. The man appropriately now leads a celebrity lifestyle, signing autographs (for a fee) while relaxing on a comfortable armchair and smoking a very dubious-looking pipe. Needless to say, he no longer tills the fields!
Terracotta warrior excavation site

The third hall was the site of the second pit, which contained the force’s Generals and the army HQ. It also had hundreds of horses standing in long columns, four abreast, with large unnatural gaps behind them. Our guide explained that these horses would have been placed with their wooden carts behind them. The carts were no longer present, as the fires had destroyed them in the aftermath of the Emperor’s death.

The last impressive display, in the final hall, was a pair of bronze chariots and horses unearthed in 1980 near the Tomb of the Emperor. The chariots were accompanied by large, coloured drawings, showing what archeologists believe was the method of producing the terracotta soldiers and their horses.

After a thorough tour of the site, we left for a great lunch at a local silk factory. Here, we were all shown how silk is extracted from the silk worm and the processes involved in making silk fabrics. We were also privileged to have a private fashion show highlighting the changing styles and patterns of silk clothing over different periods in Chinese silk history, starting with the Qin dynasty when the fabric was first discovered by the Empress, who was subsequently deified.

We then returned to Xi’an, where we had a wonderful speciality dumpling meal, before going for a quick walk around the wonderfully bustling city centre – and home to bed.

Silk fashion show

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Day 30: Thursday 25 May 2006
Zhaoqing – Splendid China, Shenzhen

On this our final day of the Great Tour of China 2006, we made a short journey mainly on expressway from Zhaoqing to the Splendid China Cultural Park in Shenzhen for the ceremonial finish.

May 26, 2006
Day 29: Wednesday 24 May 2006
Guilin - Zhaoqing

We left Gulin on smooth fast roads with wonderful views of the ‘eggbox’ type hills. These are hills of limestone which have eroded into shape over centuries covered in native vegetation and resembling very large teeth.

May 25, 2006
Day 28: Tuesday 23 May 2006
Kaili - Guilin

The agenda today was another long driving day to Guilin along a mixture of road surfaces: smooth main roads, bumpy secondary roads and some roads still under construction.

May 24, 2006
Day 27: Monday 22 May 2006
Huangguoshu Falls - Kaili

Before negotiating another day on the road, everyone spent a couple of hours today visiting China’s most scenic falls at Huangguoshu. Set against lush, local vegetation, the falls make up in beauty for what they lack in size.

May 23, 2006
Day 26: Sunday 21 May 2006
Kunming – Huangguoshu Falls

This morning we took the northern road from Kunming on a mix of main highway, dual carriageway and back roads. The first town we passed through was Quiyang en route to Honggu, a large town with coal mining and steel production as it’s main industries.

May 23, 2006