Tag Archives: Terracotta Warriors

My Dream Round-the-World Itinerary

Exterior of the Lincoln Tomb, postcard postmarked 1909

Exterior of the Lincoln Tomb, postcard postmarked 1909

Usually when I travel, it’s a case of finding a graveyard wherever I’ll be. When my parents decided they wanted to show my daughter Niagara Falls this summer, I did some research to find out what cemeteries I could visit in the area. I did the same last summer when they took us to Stratford, Canada’s Shakespeare Festival. When my family visited Wm. and Leslie up in Seattle, I knew I wanted to see Jimi Hendrix’s grave in Renton. When the World Horror Convention was scheduled for New Orleans this year, I had a wealth of cemeteries from which to choose. Unfortunately, the weather limited me to only two.

There are so many graves and graveyards in the world that I’m never going to run out of places I want to go. In fact, my must-see list grows twice as fast as it shrinks.

Sometimes I play a little game with myself: what if I won a round-the-world trip? If I only had 10 stops, what would I see?

The list fluctuates. Some things are constants, but there are so many choices that something always has to be knocked off to make room. As of today, this moment, these are the 10 graves and graveyards on my Bucket List:

"Where the Famous Scout Rests Forever"

“Where the Famous Scout Rests Forever”

Stop 1 – Lookout Mountain, Colorado
One of the first postcards I added to my collection was the grave of Buffalo Bill in the moonlight. The card reads, “Buffalo Bill sleeps forever on the utmost point of Lookout Mountain. Overlooking the plains where he fought the Indians and killed the buffalo, his eternal watch goes on undisturbed by Summer’s throng or Winter’s solitude.” Col. Williamm F. Cody is buried near his wife and foster son Johnny Baker. Apparently, the gravesite is a short drive from Denver.

Stop 2 – Springfield, Illinois
I’ve been to the graves of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, and William Garfield, but I’ve never been to Lincoln’s tomb. His monument dominates Oak Ridge Cemetery, but I’m sure the garden cemetery – founded in 1856 – is lovely in a lush, Midwestern way. The cemetery offers an audio tour, which I would love to check out.

A vintage postcard of Martin Luther King Jr.'s grave

A vintage postcard of Martin Luther King Jr.’s grave

Stop 3 – Atlanta, Georgia
I haven’t done nearly enough travel around the American South. It’s a gap in my cemetery education. Sometimes, when I’ve not daydreaming about traveling around the world, I think about renting a car and driving around this unfamiliar part of the country. My first stop would be The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, where I could pay my respects at the graves of Martin Luther Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

Stop 4 – Moscow
From Atlanta, my trip would really take off. I’ve never been to Russia, so I don’t really know what I’m in for, but I have always wanted to see Lenin’s tomb in Red Square. I read Lenin’s Embalmers for Morbid Curiosity and that cemented my desire to see the man – or what’s left of him – for myself. (I’ll review the book on Cemetery Travel tomorrow.)

Giza pyramids001Stop 5 – Cairo
Another gaping hole in my cemetery education is that I’ve never seen the pyramids at Giza. I started to research a trip in 2011, right before the protests. All my life, I’ve wanted to see the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World, among the largest tombs in the world (although, strangely enough, the largest tomb is in Japan – that will have to be another trip). My worry is that religious extremists of one flavor or another will decide that these enormous “heathen” tombs must be destroyed and I will miss my change. Of everything on this list, the pyramids of Giza are my tomb priority.

Stop 6 – Jerusalem
In terms of my education, I must also make a stop in Jerusalem to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The holiest Christian site in the world, it is believed to include the place of the crucifixion and the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea, which Jesus was temporarily buried, as well as the burial place of Adam the first man, and the cave Queen Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, found the True Cross. It will be worth standing in a long, long line to see all of that.

TWA Taj001Stop 7 – Agra, India
I guess it goes without saying that I need to see the “world’s most famous burial building,” according to Tom Weil’s The Cemetery Book. The Taj Mahal, an immense white marble mausoleum, was built by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife. I’ve read that there are other Mughal tombs in the area, just as lovely if not as world-famous. I look forward to comparing them.

Stop 8 – Xian, China
Twice now I’ve seen some of the Terracotta Warriors on tour in San Francisco. I would love to explore the burial place of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. UNESCO calls the site “one of the most fabulous archaeological reserves in the world.” Along with the Taj Mahal, the excavation of the Terracotta Warriors makes modern lists of the Eight Wonders of the World. It also makes my list for grandest tombs in the world.

Yokohama001Stop 9 – Yokohama, Japan
Switching gears to something more modest, I’d like to visit the Foreign Cemetery in Yokohama. Like the Protestant Cemetery in Rome and the English Cemetery in Florence, the Foreign Cemetery was the only burial ground set aside for non-Japanese in the days when the country was barely opened – and still openly hostile – to foreigners. Many of the oldest gravestones were destroyed by the Kanto Earthquake in 1923, but an estimated 3000 gravestones still remain. I’d like to compare the Foreign Cemetery with the Japanese cemeteries I’ve visited in Tokyo.

Photo of Father Damien's grave taken from Kalaupapa and the Legacy of Father Damien

Photo of Father Damien’s grave taken from Kalaupapa and the Legacy of Father Damien

Stop 10 – Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Molokai
The final stop of my world tour would be to pay my respects at the grave of Father Damien, a Belgian priest who served the internees at the leper colony on Molokai. Father Damien eventually contracted leprosy himself and died among his charges. His body was eventually returned to Belgium, but his right hand was returned to Hawaii and buried in his original grave. Damien became as saint in 2009.

So there you have it. Of course, this version of my imaginary itinerary doesn’t visit the D-Day graveyards of France or Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. It lacks a stop at Elvis’s grave at Graceland and an exploration of the Museo des Momias in Guanajuato. Oh, there are just so many places I want to see!

Cemetery of the Week #100: the Burial Complex of Qin Shi Huang

Photo from the exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, April 2013.

Photo from the exhibit at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, April 2013.

Museum of the Terracotta Warriors
Lintong District, Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China
Founded: 246 BCE
Size: 4 miles in circumference
Number of interments: unknown
Open: 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Admission: RMB 150 (March 1-November 30); RMB 120 (December 1- February 28). The ticket also includes the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, which has not been excavated yet

Called one of the Eight Wonders of the Ancient World, the burial site of China’s first emperor remained buried for more than 2000 years. Larger than four football fields, the site is comprised of as many as 8000 terracotta warriors, along with figures of acrobats, jugglers, water birds, horses, and chariots. The site includes models of palaces, stables, a zoo, and riverbeds that once flowed with mercury between mountains of bronze. The layout of the burial site is modeled on the Qin capital of Xianyang, with two concentric cities. The outer one has a circumference of almost four miles.

The burial site was discovered in 1974 when three farmers sank a shaft for a well. After almost 40 years, much of the site remains unexcavated. In fact, the Emperor’s actual tomb, which lies under a mound 140-some feet high, has not yet been opened. UNESCO estimates that the tomb houses the coffin and burial artifacts, but it is booby-trapped with automatically triggered weapons to dissuade grave robbers.

Warrior with traces of paint, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, April 2013.

Warrior with traces of paint, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, April 2013.

Ying Zheng became king of Qin in 264 BCE as a boy of 13. By 221 BCE, he had unified the warring kingdoms of Ancient China and declared himself emperor. Among his achievements were the standardization of currency, a uniform system of writing, and a new legal code.

During his reign, an estimated hundreds of thousands of artisans were assembled to construct the burial complex and its permanent denizens. Over the course of nearly four decades, from 246 to 208 BCE, these artists made molds for the warriors, cast them in orangish brown clay, baked them, and assembled the pieces. The workmen labored until the Emperor’s death, when the second emperor ordered them to be walled up to protect the tomb’s secrets.

In addition to the size and complexity of the burial site, the warriors themselves are breathtaking works of art. Their faces were each individually carved; while elements of armor and dress recur, each figure is unique. In addition, each figure was fully painted. Traces of the original pigments are all that remain. Chinese archaeologists were unable to stop the paint from flaking away when they unearthed the figures.

Kneeling archer found in the second pit, on display at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, April 2013.

Kneeling archer found in the second pit, on display at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, April 2013.

UNESCO calls the site “one of the most fabulous archaeological reserves in the world.”

I have not yet been able to make the pilgrimage to China myself, but I did get to see four of the warriors when they traveled to San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum earlier this year. I would dearly love to go and see the whole army. In the meantime, I’ve pulled the visitation information from the internet. Links are below.

Apparently, up to 40,000 tourists a day visit the Terracotta Warriors during the high season in the summer time. No advance tickets seem to be available, so you may stand in a very long line.

Useful links:

The UNESCO World Heritage listing

Another resource on the Terracotta Warriors

Guide to visiting the Terracotta Warriors

Lishan Garden Park, which includes the museum, warriors, and burial mound

The San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s Winter 2013 exhibition