Board a plane at 8am wednesday morning, fly 1 hour and 30 minutes to Xian, spend 3 hours touring the terra-cotta warriors, board a plane at 6:10pm and fly back to Beijing. Sound like a crazy idea? Maybe, but I did it anyway. I woke up at a completely uncivilized hour of the morning wednesday to arrive at the airport with more than enough time to spare. This was to be my first solo traveling expedition, unless you count getting myself to China in the first place. Just a day trip to China’s old capitol. I was met with skeptical looks when I explained that I would be returning the same day. Folks were worried there wouldn’t be enough time. And to be fair if I had seen more than just the Terracotta Warriors that probably would have been true. But it was worth it just to go for the day to see them. In any case, I was met at the airport by my guide, who was my age with a degee in tourism. Her usual gig was hosting parties for 2-3 day trips to Xian. I think she also thought I was a little crazy for coming in only for the day as well.
Before we headed out to the Pits we stopped at the Hanyangling Museum. I didn’t get a chance to snap any photos here. I wasn’t sure if that was allowed, but I wish that I had. It was amazing. One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been here in Beijing is that there are a fair amount of barriers to important artifacts/buildings/historical spaces. At the Forbidden City you couldn’t actually enter the building where the emperor’s throne is. Instead you are met with a bunch of people crowding around a small entrance trying desperately to get a look. It’s a bit claustrophobic. Because of this I think I’ve missed a few things here and there. The Hanyangling Museum is a little different.
The Museum itself is underground, and it’s not really a museum in the strictest sense. It’s an actual tomb that has been excavated, or at least part of a tomb. The Chinese people still hold strong beliefs about the afterlife, and this includes the afterlife of their ancestors. Namely the emperors who are buried within these tombs. Rather than embark on full excavations they are using Penetrating Radar to see what’s inside without disturbing anything. They have, however, excavated these long corridors that run perpendicular to each side of the tomb. And these corridors are what you see when you enter the museum. Huge walls of clear glass look out on corridors that are littered with miniature sized warriors, animals, charriots, and other elements that would be beneficial for the emperor in his afterlife. The hall is darkly lit and you feel like you really are underground. At the entrance you have to put on these little blue plastic booties, because as you walk around the museum you eventually end up on a clear glass floor directly over the top of the corridors. You look down and are essentially standing over artifacts. It really is surreal. The anthropology nerd in my was having a minor stroke I think.
The Museum definitely set the mood for the next part of the day which was visiting the famous Terracotta Warriors.
to be continued……..
(look out for Tea and Terracotta tomorrow)