Michèle and I took a flight from Shanghai to Xian mid-December 1994. Everything inside the hotel was beautifully decorated for Christmas, almost as an apology for the ever-present, dreary-gray overcast that haunted the city. We hired a local tour guide to see the terracotta-army museum, but of course it included a few other points of interest, like a carpet factory, which is literally the most boring video I’ve ever taken.
Travel Tip: If you’re having trouble sleeping because of the jet lag, take a tour of a carpet factory.
If you know nothing about the Terra-cotta Army unearthed in Xian, China in 1974, google it. In short, there was an emperor named Qin, which I have pronounced as (Kin) for the last 27 years until my son Michael said, “It’s pronounced Chin, as in the Chin Dynasty.” Anyway, Qin enlists hundreds of artisans to make thousands of clay soldiers, each with a unique face, each brandishing a real weapon. Qin wanted to be buried with this army in an underground tomb so he would be protected in the afterlife. Thousands of years later, two farmers are doing farmer things out in a field and freak out when they dig up a couple of heads. Five decades and 8,000 figures later, we still don’t know how many remain. Qin is long gone and his army is still here. Their weapons have all disintegrated, so the soldiers are all just standing around with their hands grasping air.
Once Michèle and I were inside the terracotta army mausoleum, their word not mine, we were awestruck by the sheer quantity of warriors unearthed, still in their original positions. It was true – each and every face was unique. (I am sure that in 1994, I made some stupid joke to Michèle about how the faces all looked the same anyway… and I’m sure she got mad and shouted, “JOE!” But it’s 2017 now and I’ve matured. But don’t you think that Asian’s go to Disney’s Hall of Presidents and think that they all look the same. At least the president within each century..
I took out my video camera and started taping. Within seconds a Red Guard officer noticed and ran towards shouting in Mandarin. Then he pointed at one of nearly a thousand signs that indicated no pictures allowed. I lowered my hand with the camera and we finished the tour. Once outside I realized that the camera had been running the entire time. I taped an hour of illegal, upside down – backwards, video. You mostly see the roof of the mausoleum while you hear Michele and I continuously say, “Look at that one!” “Wow! Look at that one!” “Wow!” for more than 60 minutes.
Well luckily they have gift shops everywhere in the world and Xian was no different. Just outside the shop are 2 warriors that you can pose and take a photo with. I’m pretty sure they use fake ones so the real ones don’t get destroyed, although they have 8,000 of these things so…
Inside the gift shop were dozens of miniature action figures for purchase. Don’t ask me why, but we bought a bunch of these and in different sizes – some kneeling, some standing, even a horse.
The further away we got from the terra-cotta museum, the cheaper they were and the more we bought. Seriously, we have enough of these things to bury me with my own little army.