Not the most original title around, I know. But hey. How about instead I make this post interesting by switching tense a lot and jumping around in time? That sounds like a good idea, right? I’ll be like those youtube personalities who use an obnoxious amount of quick cuts to hold viewer attention and ensure that nobody notices that they don’t actually have any real content*. Except that I will have content, probably in the form of some pictures of clay soldiers that I’ll throw in here and there. Then we’ll have ourselves a post, mmboy.

*Seriously, though, there are a lot of parenthetical asides inbound. I will not pretend that this sort of writing is anything short of sloppy, but I couldn’t think of any other way to present it effectively. English majors should probably just skip to the picture gallery and discussion of what the hell these soldiers are, at the bottom.

Righty then –

Pen and paper blogging again. On a bus full of Chinese tourists again. True to white-person form (yes, I can hyperlink on a piece of paper. What of it?) I actually enjoyed showing up at the combined railway + bus station and seeing nothing but thousands of domestic tourists. On the one hand it made me feel a little uncomfortable because the lack of other white people was predictably accompanied by a complete absence of sign translation, which would be good 汉字 practice if I was in the mood, but I wasn’t. So I just disregarded everything that was written and asked a lot of questions, which per usual works passably well. On the other hand, though, it makes me feel a lot more comfortable that I’m not getting ripped off, which is something that I literally cannot afford at present.

Sidebar from future, aka present: Man, and I thought my haggling was good before. This whole lack of wallet thing has taken it to a whole new level, though. I actually haven’t bought anything over 10 kuai for less than half-off since the wallet got stolen. It works so well because you can be like “well gee sir I’d normally be fine with paying you 100 kuai for that, but…” I’ve also lost whatever trace of guilt that I used to have while bargaining, er, effectively. As Connor likes to point out, if someone’s trying that hard to sell you something for 20 kuai he probably needs the $3.50 more than you do. Connor’s actually been known for haggling things UP, which creates so much confusion on the part of the vendor that it’s usually worth the extra buck or two. He’s kinda sorta a better person than I am, but he also has a real income, so that’s fine. Anyway now I can get really, really gutsy because it’s not just me dicking with people because I can; it’s kinda a necessity. So I’ve become completely shameless. Consider: buying everything I wanted today would have cost me 604 without haggling and bargaining. With it, I paid 245. Working from a total of 1800, that’s a pretty critical difference.

Back to the bus. Just had a winner of a conversation with the dude next to me. It starts as I pull out my breakfast, a box of chocolate pocky. Understand that I’ve reached the age where I have realized that I can eat pocky for breakfast whenever I want, but have yet to mature enough to convince myself that I shouldn’t. Before you judge me too much though, this wasn’t premeditated; I just bought them last night and forgot about them, so they were still in my jacket.
Anywho I take one out of the box and offer it to the guy, who immediately gets very serious and sternly tells me that I’m not allowed to smoke on the bus. I guess this looks like something one might smoke? Sorta? Moreso than this, anyway. In response to his concern I just bite off half of it, and in the space between when I did that and when I told him it was food (well, “food”) I got to bear witness to one of the more horrified expressions I’ve seen in a while.
Then he asked where I was from, and I braced to go into the good ol’ standard canned conversation. Fortunately, as soon as I told him he was American, he excitedly noted that I have a black… something? Did I hear ‘zongtong?’
“Wait, say that again?”
“O-BA-MA” (Only words that alternate vowels and consonants can actually be transliterated well into Chinese. Luckily for the leader of the free world, his name fits the bill)
I heard zongtong. “Oh,” I responded, “Um, yes. I like him.”
And that was the end of that rather unorthodox conversation. Although I wanted to return the favor and inform him that his president was in fact Asian, I opted to kill the conversation because he was wearing one of those sick masks — which everyone but Connor wears to indicate that they are sick, not to preemptivly attempt to prevent themselves from becoming so — and he kept taking off his mask to talk to me and was really close and I’m really trying to avoid coming down with something here, because unless your name is Su Ke once you get sick in China it’s really tough to get better again. Sukes does it by somehow remaining unconscious for 20 or 30 hours at a time. Us mortals have to just hope for the best.

Crap. I’m at 800 words and haven’t said anything about the Terracotta Warriors yet. Sorry ’bout that. Here:

Honestly this entire blog post could have just been this picture, and the words "I went and looked at these" and it would probably be funnier than the word-vomit full of parenthetical asides that I've decided to opt for instead, but too late now

Speeding it up. I get to the grounds, get accosted by a bunch of people wanting to give me a tour. Haggle myself one for half of what she wants, talk to her a bit. She realizes I’m college age and asks if I have an ID card. I didn’t see a ‘student ticket’ option on the ticket window so I didn’t know where she was going with it but, enterprising young man that I am, I found my old Qinghua ID in my backpack the night before and thought to bring it with me in lieu of my wildcard. God knows where said wildcard is now. Last update on the wallet situation is that we called the bar and nobody turned it in sans cash, so there goes that little hope. Anywho she directs me to like, an entirely separate ticket vendor and they sell me a ticket for half off. I wouldn’t have found it otherwise and the 55 kuai that it saved me paid for more than half the steeply reduced cost of the guide, so that was pretty sweet.

The guide was a pretty good investment, both as a source of some information that wasn’t on the signs and as a Chinese language partner. It was pretty clear that her English wasn’t actually that good but rather she had just memorized a two-hour long tour pretty much by rote (the Chinese education system has always been and continues to be heavily reliant on just straight-up memorization. This woman must have done fantastically). She was actually convincing enough that it took me until I started asking questions in English to realize this; she could only really answer me in Chinese. I think the best part though was when we got to pit two(sorry for the blur!), where as you may note almost all the people are headless.
I noticed this quickly and waited for a pause in her speech ask to ask why they didn’t have any heads. I did this in Chinese, and in mandarin she responded “wait! we’ll get to that!” which was a lil’ odd but sure maybe it needs more context, or something. When it came to that part in the speech though, she asks: “Do you know why they don’t have any heads?”
Call me crazy but I feel like if she knew sorta the subtleties behind what she was saying she would have skipped the whole asking-rhetorical-questions-that-I’ve-already-answered section of the speech. For those interested, pit 2 was a political headquarters (get it get it) of some sort, and the accepted historian speculation was that the emperor had most of them beheaded because they had done an unsatisfactory job. If that was the case I’m not sure why Qin Shi Huang would choose to be buried with incompetents but that’s not really my call to make.

Oh man I was going to jump back into present tense with some of my thoughts that I wrote down at lunch after the last part of the tour but this thing is already way longer than it should be, so instead I’m just going to insert a gallery of the rest of my pictures from the day. I’m in some of them, because the guide insisted that that was part of what I had paid for and that she was damn well going to take some pictures of me, so hey.

Alright, now just a little bit on what these suckers are. If you don’t want to just go to wikipedia, that is. But if you do, note that 4 of the pictures on the wikipedia page are pretty much identical to the ones in my gallery. I didn’t realize that until just now when I went to fact check, but I guess that means I take good pictures because what gets featured on wikipedia is clearly the golden standard of photography.
The Qin dynasty was the first to really unite China in any meaningful way, so it was host to the first Emperor in the history of the country. From what I remember of my Chinese history and literature classes, this guy was a complete douche but at least he got things done.
Emperors generally aren’t particularly renown for their modesty or humility, and this guy was no exception, so in a show of extravagance he called for 8000 clay soldiers to be constructed and buried in defensive position around his mausoleum to protect him in the afterlife. So they were, and these guys have been standing exactly where you see them since about 200 years before ol’ Jesus kicked the bucket, which is when the first emperor of China finally got around to dying. Pretty incredible stuff. If you’ve got any questions about any of the pictures or the soldiers, fire away in the comments and I’ll answer as best I can.

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