We went to Xian to see the warriors.
Like the Great Wall and good Chinese food, The Terracotta Warriors are one of the things you aren’t supposed to miss on a visit here.
And it’s true. More than 60,000 life-size (actually double size given how small people were at the time) warriors in full battle gear standing together is a sight to be seen. Kneeling archers, standing archers, generals and soldiers each with a unique face and expression- all made by hand.
You can visit, camera in hand and snap away. You can stop in the gift shop for a replica.
You can literally do it and get the tshirt.
But at some point in your visit you’ll likely ask yourself the nagging question: what kind of man does this?
The official answer: an emperor.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang to be exact.
But that is only a title not an explanation. The answer is more convoluted.
A man who became an emperor as a boy- he was only 10.
A man who began planning his grave at age 13 and then dedicated the next 40 years to building it.
A man so determined to carry his wealth and power into the afterlife that he spent years worth of the country’s money having men built out if clay to follow him there.
And yet, as my tour guide points out he did instrumental things for his country as well – uniting the 7 kingdoms into 1 unified China and stabilizing the writing system.
And I’ll later come to understand that the practice of carrying your prized possessions into the afterlife wasn’t unique to Emperor Qin. People of all ranks and classes did it; The Emperor just did it bigger.
He needed an army in his next life, chariots to ride in, people to work for him.
I try not to judge him as we walk through but then I hear a fact that still gives me chills: He also took 10,000 concubines and craftsman into his death chamber. They were buried alive because he might need them in the afterlife.
Real people. Not terracotta replicas.
No man is 100% evil but anyone who does that certainly ranks higher than most.
We came to see the warriors. I got more than I bargained for.