Friday, January 23, 2015

Soldiers, and horses and more, oh my!

I think it would be fair to say that most of the Band was believing that today would be yet another highlight of their trip to China….a visit to the site of the Terra Cotta Warriors.  I think it would also be fair to say that they were not disappointed!

The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses are the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Work is ongoing at this site, which is around 1.5 kilometers east of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum in Lintong, Xian, Shaanxi Province. It is a sight not to be missed by any visitor to China.

Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC),
Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, had begun to work for his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. It is speculated that many buried treasures and
sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his after life. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. It caught the attention of archeologists immediately. They came to Xian in droves to study and to extend the digs. They had established beyond doubt that these artifacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC).

Life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum. They are replicas of what the imperial guard should look like in those days of pomp and vigor.

The museum covers an area of 16,300 square meters, divided into three sections: No. 1 Pit, No. 2 Pit, and No. 3 Pit respectively. They were tagged in the order of their discoveries. No. 1 Pit is the largest, first opened to the public on China's National Day - Oct. 1st, 1979. There are columns of soldiers at the front, followed by war chariots at the back.  The area was listed by UNESCO in 1987 as one of the world cultural heritages.
Our visit to the area took about four ½ hours – 2 hours to drive out and back, and the rest of the time wandering through the discoveries, taking pictures, having lunch and more.   Some of our more creative people managed to get FaceTime calls home with warriors in the background….how things have changed, huh? 

We left the area and headed to a rehearsal at the Xian Conservatory of Music’s new Concert Hall.  What a beautiful place!  We were among the hall’s first visitors – it just opened in the fall.  Seating 1000, we understood that all tickets had been purchased for tonight so we were not at all surprised to see most all seats filled when the concert began.

Dinner, by the way, was at a hotel called the Xian Garden Hotel, near the center of the city.  We saw the Wild Goose Pagoda and a stunning new sculpture park and new/refurbished area with public event spaces including a large new concert hall and theatres.  During our 2003 visit by the band to Xian, we could barely see anything through the smog……today was lovely – sun, not too cool, and you could see the mountains fifteen miles away.   Not bad.  Not bad at all.

And tonight?  A truly memorable concert event in Xian.  Nearly ever seat was full, and even school kids sat rapt with attention as the band performed on instruments not seen before.  For the first time, some of the audience sat above and around the band - as different sounds were made, or as the percussion took our their "toys" people would jump forward in their seats and look down, smiling broadly, poking one another and laughing with joy.  I frankly was amazed at how well behaved these kids were - and we hope that we sparked a new interest in music in many of them.....and who knows, an interest in joining us at Augustana perhaps?  

Today, we say goodbye to Lucy and Fei Fei, two good friends!

Tomorrow - an early start to a long day of exploration of Xian followed by a six-hour bullet train ride to Beijing!


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