My Chinese Impressions – Part 2

Terracota Warriors, Xi’an, China.

I visited Terracota Warriors late last year and it is an interesting story, much like many other things in China. Xi’an is located in Shanxi province. Shanxi has an ancient history dating back about 3000 years and had a thriving civilization for about 1000 years due to the fertile basin provided by the yellow river. It’s map looks like a kneeling archer, who was part of the army of the Terracota Warriors.

Dipping A Toe In History

But let me focus on the task at hand for now..the story goes that Emperor Qin, who lived aronud 3000 years ago, was a fierce warrior, had a large army and had amassed several enemies over the years. Chinese tradition, much like Indian one, believes in after-life and he wanted to secure his life after death. Hence, he created his entire army of 6000 soldiers, face for face, hand for hand, foot for foot in larger than life-sized models made from terracota and positioned them around his tomb so that he will be protected in his after life. Only a portion of the entire army has been actually excavated, the rest of the sites, though open to public are not completely excavated, yet.

Digging A Bit Deeper

The legend also has it that when the soldier figures were excavated they had several different colors on them which were probably based on some pigments (which shows that 3000 years ago there was knowledge of colors and pigments in the Chinese culture). However, the moment the soldiers were excavated, the colors faded and now nothing remains (except for a figment of yellow on the color of one of the soldiers). Also, due to a pillage immediately following the death of Emperor Qin, most of the soldier figures were broken and had to be rebuilt bit by bit at the excavation site.

The large terracota army of soldiers was not the only heritage that Emperor Qin left behind. He was the reason behind the building of the Great Wall of China as well as the unification of the Chinese (Mandarin) script – for which I consider him to be a visionary, because in spite of the differences in dialects and culture, Chinese across the world read the same script and there are a lot of advantages inherent in it for a nation so large and I can say it with such confidence because I come from India, which is a nation just as large in terms of population and yet is not only divided by culture, languages, caste but also by the lack of a unified script.

Vision In 250 BC & Marketing in 21st Century AD

But before you start thinking that I’m getting all philosophical here, let us take a practical example. I visited markets in Shanghai and all the consumer durables and FMCG products have information printed in the Mandarin script in terms of contents, usage, price and even safety precautions, expiry date etc. I whistled, knowing very well that such a thing could never happen in India. What with 26 different languages and around 20 different scripts, imagine the supply chain & logistics nightmare not to mention the forecasting issues and micro segmentation for marketing…so in Indian supermarkets we get products with information in English printed on them. You would say, what’s wrong? Nothing. Except that even in villages (where 70% of India currently lives) the same products are sold in the very same packages, with product information written in English, so the poor villager, who does not know English is either forced to buy products whose information he cannot verify or not purchase the product. Well, what exemplary vision, what injustice, is all I can say!

Coming back to the topic of Terracota Warriors, the site is also considered to be the 8th wonder of the world. It was indeed an awesome experience. and more to come of my Chinese impressions and adventures…

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