We’re here. We’re finally here. The Terracotta Warriors that I read about and saw pictures of ten years ago are now meters from my face. And they look amazing, overwhelming at first for their number and then for their individuality. The statues stretch on for the length of several football fields, and each one’s hairstyle, body, and facial expression is distinct. That one has a mustache. That one seems to be smiling a little. More than anything else on our trip, this sight has been a tangible goal for me, and it’s kind of odd to realize that we made it. Granted, it took an airplane, a ten-hour train trip, and a grueling, elbows-out-stepping-on-children fight to board the public bus, but we finally got here. And, to be fair, the train trip from Kaifeng was kind of great – we shared sunflower seeds with the woman across from us, and communicated in giggles and gesture, while passing corn fields and permission orchards.
Looking out over the sea of clay bodies before us (and looking back at the sea of tourist bodies behind), China seems . . . big. Big in numbers of people and big in square miles and big in thousands of years of civilization. Its sheer heft hits me hard, and despite the thousands of cameras clicking and the utter inanity of the audio-guide (actual quote: “On his left, you can see his left hand”), I’m in awe. After walking through all the tombs, we sneak back into the first, most impressive hall. Colin has brought his i-Pod and we each pop in an earbud, tuning out everyone else and, listening to music in our 21st century way, we stare again at the warriors from 246BC.