East meets West: soldiers of clay and flesh

The next destination on our China tour is Xi’an, known among several things for its famed mausoleum of emperor Qin Shi Huang and his terra-cotta army, as well as its city wall, being the most complete city wall to survive in China.

general jon

Dashing general Jon

Starting off with a trip to a local terra-cotta soldier factory, we were taught the significance of each model as well as the technique used in the production. After some perusing and haggling, I bought a terra-cotta Emperor Qin. While not actually found in the dig site, it looks really cool. Who cares if it’s not historical; the guy united China – I’m sure he had one or two statues of himself put up. He will stand proud in my sculptures & castings collection.

kneeling archer

A terra-cotta kneeling archer

After the shopping, our very outgoing tour guide took us to see *drum roll* the real thing! Yes, the actual dig site of the terra-cotta army! Having seen The Mummy 3 recently, just a little imagination had them rallying for battle. No need to worry; Jet Li was nowhere to be seen;) Seriously though, It’s really ridiculous what you can pull off when you are the emperor, I take it these Chinese emperors had a buck or two (badoum ching). The terra-cotta factory had a table full of mini soldiers, probably 200ish, which, I won’t lie, I was most tempted to purchase for my own personal militia. Not quite the full-size model, but that didn’t seem to be much of a handicap for the Small Soldiers – I’m fully confident that they would have fiercely protected PlanetJon. My only doubts lie in what the Canadian customs office would have had to say about that purchase. An eyebrow raiser no doubt, like come on man what are you smuggling.

xi'an guard

The Xi'an Guard

After some good Chinese food for lunch, we were shown the city wall, accompanied with a traditional Xi’an version of the changing of the guard. An interesting fact, at the center of the city stands the Bell Tower, purposed in letting the people know which phase of the workday they were entering in times of old. No building within the city walls (the old city) is allowed to be taller than the Bell Tower.

Things got rather exciting afterwards. Having some time to kill before dinner, some of us followed a street vendor promising “genuine bags” through a massage parlour to some room in the back which seemed to function as an extremely small cafe and showroom. The real fun started when the actual salesman showed up and filled the empty shelves with his totally legit wares for our shopping pleasure. Another employee of this fine establishment then came in and brewed us coffee, perhaps to help ease the apprehensive mood? Not sketchy at all negotiating pricing for the merchandise while a few locals lounged on couches at the other side of the room, rather entertained.

To top the day, a scrumptious dumpling dinner banquet, followed by a theatrical dance performance. Yeah Xi’an may not be as bustling as Shanghai but it’s pretty cool.

Also in East Meets West

An account of my experiences during a family vacation in China.

  1. East meets West: sitting in an airport
  2. East meets West: Peking Opera, the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs, Beijing 2008, and Peking Duck
  3. East meets West: hot time in the hutong tonight
  4. East meets West: soldiers of clay and flesh

View the entire series