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U3A Writing: Terra Cotta Warriors

...I have spoken to Chinese people who have come to this country recently, and none of them have heard of the Terra Cotta warriors. Obviously the publicity is for foreign tourists!...

Jim Moore sees the terra cotta army "recruited'' to protect an Emperor in his afterlife.

A few kilometres outside of Xian in northern China, there is a large excavation started in 1974 after the discovery of some ceramic figures by a farmer boring for water.

We approached what appeared to be an aircraft hanger. After paying our money, we were led inside onto a large viewing platform probably 40 meters long, overlooking row upon row of life sized ceramic soldiers, complete with horses and chariots.

This was an army, designed to protect the Emperor into his afterlife. At the back we could see workers still uncovering more of the figures. There are hundreds of these warriors, originally all painted, being individual characters, complete with ceremonial dress, but over the centuries the colour has been lost.

What a fantastic record of the era. It must have employed artisans for years to put all this together. Centuries ago, vandals broke into the chamber and stole all the valuables which they could find, took some of the weapons, and set fire to the rest, so that the log roof collapsed, so that when they were unearthed last century, they were covered in earth.

I have spoken to Chinese people who have come to this country recently, and none of them have heard of the Terra Cotta warriors. Obviously the publicity is for foreign tourists! It is impossible to imagine what this must be worth to China at the moment.

And what about the thought that if you wanted to build something to be your monument, and had the unlimited funds required, what would you build?

I'm sure that there are more warriors outside the hangar than inside, as hawkers offered to sell us models from six inches to six feet high, but I declined, as it would mean carting one back to Australia in my backpack. Anyway, we reckoned that they would soon be on sale in K-mart!

Wrong, we got one from Bunnings!

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