China’s Ancient Treasures

Visiting Xian’s archeological excavation sites was one of the most memorable experiences I have had traveling in China. The Terra Cotta Army was remarkable, and Han Yang Ling was equally impressive.

Terracotta Warriors

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The discovery of the Qin Dynasty artifacts is one story every earth digger would want to be a part of. It is perhaps the world’s most significant find in modern times. The excavation is vast and extensive so that work is still pretty much ongoing. One can never miss a trip to Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum when in Xian.

Qin Shi Huang was the first ever Emperor of China. He worked for his mausoleum that took 11 long years to finish. So you can just imagine the extensive thought, planning and work put into creating such an after-life abode. Based on the number, variety and richness of artifacts uncovered, the emperor’s burial place and entire vicinity is said to be like a great city. Although I know this was a royal tomb, I still could not understand why too much effort and wealth is spent on a mere burial site. I then learned that in ancient Chinese belief, it is important for a ruler to have a “comfortable” after-life. And precisely because he was a ruler that he had to have subjects surrounding him, and warriors protecting his body. These warriors were life-sized terracotta replicas of imperial guards during that period. In other words, the Emperor had the whole entourage buried with, around and near him. Makes sense now? 🙂

The Museum is over 16,000 square meters land area with three pits not too far from each other. Each of the pits contained terracotta figures of soldiers, warriors, chariots and horses. There are about seven thousand of them in total. A closer look at the figures made me appreciate the impressive handiwork of the Chinese. They are truly skilled people and quite advanced in the use of tools.

yangshihuaHow this underworld city was discovered is rather charming. In 1974, roughly two thousand years after the Qin Dynasty period, a group of farmers were digging for a well near the emperor’s tomb when they unearthed some pottery. One of the peasants, Mr. Yang Shihua, who unearthed the historical treasures happened to be at the museum on the day of my visit. So a crowd of eager tourists gathered for a meet and greet. I, too, went up to him like a fan lining up for a closer glimpse of a celebrity. A memorable encounter it was indeed.

Han Yang Ling Mausoleum

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This mausoleum is the burial site of Han Dynasty’s Emperor Jindi (Liu Qi) and his empress. It is a historical site that showcases ancient culture and archaeological artifacts in a modern facility around a beautiful landscape. And the museum inside is the largest one in China.

The Chinese has an ancient burial custom which is “to attend to the dead as if to attend to the living.” That custom was greatly represented by the lay-out of the Han Yang Ling graveyard and burial pits, as well as the fascinating objects unearthed within the area. There were warriors and weapons, palace maids dressed in Han costumes, animals and many other relics. Stepping into the museum was like time traveling back to the Han dynasty’s civilization.

Compared to the Terracotta Warriors, Han Yang Ling is very much underrated. But people who have been there know that it is as impressive as the more popular Terracotta Warriors, perhaps even more. The only downside is its location. It is situated in the northern suburbs of Xi’an and is about an hour’s bus ride from the city center. Getting there isn’t easy because of the limited number of bus trips per day. However, if you are looking for a non-touristy but visit-worthy site, Han Yang Ling Mausoleum won’t fail you.

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Posted in China, Stories on the Road

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"The beauty of the truth is that it need not be proclaimed or believed. It skips from soul to soul, changing form each time it touches, but it is what it is."— Mark Helprin

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