Princeton man, son viewed historic ‘Terracotta Warriors’
The “terracotta warriors” are nearly 6 feet tall with details from head to toe. They were all buried next to the emporer’s tomb. The warriors were discovered in 1974. Contributed photo
It’s been called one of the Eight Wonders of the Ancient World, and 40 years after its discovery, millions of visitors have been flocking to see this site. Dale Nordby, of Princeton, and his fellow travelers went to China and saw the Qin Terracotta Warriors and Equipment in 2008. Seeing the underground army was an experience of a lifetime for the Nordbys.
The Terracotta Warriors, discovered in central China in 1974, were constructed over 2,200 years ago during the reign of China’s first emperor. Hundreds of thousands of laborers and craftsmen spent decades creating more than 8,000 clay figures, each weighing 400 pounds or more. The nearly 6-feet-tall warriors, along with horses and chariots and weapons, including deadly crossbows and arrows, were buried next to the emperor’s tomb. This historical site is not as well-known as The Great Wall or the Forbidden City but it has become a “must see” for visitors to China today.
Nordby and his son, Jess, traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Hong Kong before arriving in mainland China in May 2008. His daughter, Sarah, and Jess’ girlfriend, Julie Sullivan, joined them for this portion of their trip. One of their first stops was to see The Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors.
“It was quite a revelation to see it for myself,” said Nordby. “I first read about it in National Geographic way back in 1984. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the pictures of all those warriors, lined up in rows.” Each soldier was modeled after an actual soldier in the Emperor’s army which is why each figure is so unique. No two are alike. They have different facial expressions, gestures, hairstyles, and clothing.
Dale Nordby and his son, Jess, with hundrews of “terracotta warriors” that have have been uncovered or are partially uncovered. Contributed photo
The life-size army of painted clay soldiers is associated with the Qin Dynasty, 221-206 B.C. China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuang, who became Emperor at age 13. He prepared for the afterlife by building his tomb and overseeing the creation of the army of clay soldiers, horses and chariots, which would be buried next to him to provide protection during the afterlife. “And he had good reason to worry,” Nordby emphasized. “He made many enemies during his lifetime.”
Nordby is amazed at the effort and skill involved in creating the thousands of clay soldiers with their unique characteristics. “We think we’re so advanced. This was done over 2,200 years ago,” he said. The figures were originally painted in bright colors which did not survive being buried for centuries or else they disintegrated shortly after being exposed to the air. Workers are now trying to preserve the colors before they flake off after being excavated.
The Terracotta Warriors Muscum has become a destination for visitors in China. Contributed photo
Nordby’s group walked around the four acre museum, seeing the pits and other exhibits on display. There were some English information panels in the museum and guides were also available. In pit one, the warriors have been reassembled and are standing in columns “They have a lot of people working there and they’re spending a lot of money to restore the site.” So far, three pits have been excavated but there’s debate about when and how to excavate the emperor’s tomb.
There were few tourists around during their China visit. In the spring of 2008, the country was preparing for the Beijing Olympics. Factories were closed and there were huge efforts made to improve the air quality for athletes and tourists. Whole neighborhoods were demolished and rebuilt and Nordby was impressed with the countless numbers of trees and flowers everywhere. “We picked the perfect time to travel there.”
Reflecting back on the trip taken seven years ago, Nordby said, “I don’t think I could take that trip today. We camped in a 5X7 tent, backpacked out of rental cars and hiked many miles throughout New Zealand and the outback of Australia. I wore out several pairs of socks trying to keep up with my son. I was lucky to have Jess and the girls traveling with me because they would see getting lost or any problem as an adventure. And I would just see a problem.”
The entire trip went by surprisingly well.
“We never felt unsafe. And nobody got sick.” One day, Nordby did misplace his camera, but he found an information booth and, using elaborate gestures and facial expressions, he was able to communicate his dilemma. The person at the booth got on the phone and before long, a couple approached them with his camera. Fortunately, proving that the camera belonged to him was easy. He pushed the camera’s playback button and there, on the first frame, was a picture of his daughter, Sarah.
The Qin Terracotta Warriors museum was just one stop during Nordby’s seven-week journey, but that visit and seeing other parts of China left quite an impression. He rates China as one of his favorite places to visit and has no regrets about taking that trip. “I just wish I could repeat it!”