We’d come this far just to see the terracotta warriors, just as people go all the way to the Louvre just for the Mona Lisa. We started off in the Xian Museum where there was a pretty comprehensive exhibit full of the warriors and their paraphernalia: horses, carriages, sedans. Outside of their burial pits, these sculptures somehow seemed slightly out of context and while I understood in my brain how awe-inspiring this was, I just didn’t feel any of it.
We soldiered on the next day to the actual site some distance out of Xian. The burial complex consisted of hangar-like shelters covering each of the three pits. Inside the biggest one was a museum section similar to the one in Xian. Here was the most famous warrior: the kneeling general.
We then proceeded on to the huge pits where many statues were left standing as is. I tried hard to peer at the faces, trying to see if it was true: that each face was unique and no two were alike. It was pretty cool trying to imagine how they’d look like to the first grave robbers and to the excavators who first dug through.
It was also pretty amazing the amount of work that went into creating all this before the time of mass production. Each one appeared to be painstakingly handmade.
I wondered if the horses were also based on real beasts of war. Peering as close as I could get, their faces seemed all the same to me. They were still cute nonetheless!
While still fairly impressive, I felt that the terracotta warriors were simply overexposed. I fell a sense of anticlimax finally seeing them, somewhat like seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and realising how small and difficult to view she was under all that glass. It didn’t help that the museum had all sorts of touristy gimmicks, from taking a picture standing with some replicas to having your face reproduced on a mini-terracotta warrior statue to having it etched in laser in a glass cube. Sigh.