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calendar   Monday - January 17, 2011

DIGGING UP CHINA

Came across this today. Don’t suppose all of it quite falls into archeology but the parts newly found sure do. Amazing that those people could build on this scale in this environment so long ago.

Lots of good photos HERE

China: A history still being unearthed

Nigel Richardson reports on tombs in China that have been ignored in the hype over the Terracotta Warriors.
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In the contiguous provinces of Shaanxi, Shanxi and Henan, through which China’s second-longest river flows south then abruptly east, man made the first written records of his existence – on animal bones – and established China’s earliest political and artistic cultures. Until power shifted north and east from the 10th century, the region remained the hub of a succession of dynasties, the one called Tang being generally considered the high point of Chinese civilisation.

These days the Yellow River plateau has swapped imperial robes for a boiler suit. Its coal mines and power stations feed the monster that is industrial China. But its past lives on in a succession of outstanding historic and archaeological sites that deserve to be rated world-class.

That they are not better known is partly because they are located in the heart of a vast country that only relatively recently, after nearly 4,000 years of civilisation, has been made accessible to foreigners (a region, moreover, that makes few concessions to Western tourists); and partly thanks to the Terracotta Army effect.
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So far as foreign visitors are concerned, these endlessly celebrated and reproduced figures have eclipsed almost every other notable site in China (bar the Forbidden City and the Great Wall), just as Machu Picchu dominates the rich and varied archaeology of Peru. This is both a shame and a marvellous excuse for the reasonably adventurous tourist to go exploring.

Yes, yes, we did the Terracotta Warriors – and were glad to get it over with. Since I was last there, in 1998, the car park has been relocated half a mile from the actual museum so that visitors must run a gauntlet of souvenir shops to get there, battling not just through hawkers and fellow tourists but through the wall of heat that is reflected off the vast acreages of new paving stone.

After a long gap, excavations were resumed last year and 100 more figures have been unearthed and put back together. But for me, the impressiveness of the Warriors lies not merely in the sight of them, lined up in their earthen parade grounds, but in the knowledge that they represent only a tiny fraction of what still awaits discovery.

If you imagine Xian sitting at the centre of a necropolis the size of a football pitch, the pits containing the Terracotta Army occupy an area less than the size of the penalty spot. Driving from the airport towards the city, you see the telltale burial mounds pimpling the fields.
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The actual tomb of Emperor Qin, remember, still awaits excavation, though fabulous stories of what it may contain, including rivers of mercury and elaborate booby traps – are legion. But other tombs have been opened up, notably that of Emperor Jing Di, who ruled China from 157 to 141BC, less than a century after Qin Shi Huang (and was, by all accounts, as enlightened as Qin was monstrous).

Jing’s tomb was discovered during the building of the airport road in the early Nineties, and a museum opened on the site in 2005. It provides a poignant counterpoint to the commercial hoopla of Terracotta-Land.

Undisturbed by camera-clicking hordes, we walked along glass floors above 10 excavated burial pits containing miniature clay figures of men, women, eunuchs, pigs and chickens. The armless human figures once had wooden arms and real clothes. There were lacquer boxes and collapsed chariots, and a sense of intimacy, as if these artefacts were family heirlooms.

In this part of China, farmers and construction workers are only ever a spade’s depth away from such treasures.

A LONG BUT INTERESTING READ


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 01/17/2011 at 03:52 PM   
Filed Under: • Archeology / AnthropologyCHINA in the news •  
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