The Warriors with Feet of Clay


Mr. Yang, one of the discoverers of the Qin Shi Huang
mausoleum, standing between Nancy and me.
One of the most spectacular archeological finds of the 20th century was that of the terracotta warriors outside the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, China. I have been there and have brought back with me a picture book of the exhibit suitable for coffee tables.  That isn’t what is special about the picture book. The book is signed, not by the author, but by Mr. Yang, one of the farmers who in 1974 stumbled upon the burial site of the 6,000 warriors while drilling for water. He lowered a bucket into the hole he had made and pulled up, not water, but a warrior.  Well, part of a warrior.

It is quite something to see that wizened old farmer sitting at a desk in the gift shop outside Pit 1 where a lion’s share of the find is being put together. His signature is quite beautiful. To my unpracticed eye it looks like the work of a fine calligrapher and not that of a leather-skinned old farmer who put this part of China on the world map. He is employed by the government to sign those books. I am delighted that luck enabled him to leave off the back breaking work of family farming for calligraphy.  His fate is the Chinese version of Powerball.

(The flotsam and jetsam of a Google search may have illuminated the back story of Mr. Yang and his fellow farmers.  Here is a link that provides an astonishing account of how Nancy and I came to be standing to either side of him.  I hope it is true. Another far more dismal account of the fate of the discoverers of the terracotta warriors can be found here. I hope it isn't true.)

A picture is worth a thousand words.  I had that in mind when I wrote this blog.  I took a Sony camera with me when I visited the warrior site.  Instead of writing about it I made this video.

video