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Exciting Visits to Archaeological Museums in the Historic City of Xi’an, China

In August 2015, the Graduate Program in Cultural Resource Management conducted a field trip to China with various foci including cultural policies of the government and the current situation of cultural heritages. Xi’an (西安) City—the capital of Shaanxi(陝西) province—must have been a splendid bustling capital city with temples and monumental towers in ancient times. The Banpo(半坡)Site Museum, Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum (秦始皇帝陵) Site Museum, and the Han Yang Ling (漢陽陵) Museum are main attractions in Xi’an, considered to be typical examples of the relationship between conservation and museums from three points, as follows.

First, the Banpo Museum was the first prehistoric site museum in China and a very successful example of combining archaeological excavations and museums to preserve and promote the values of the archaeological heritage. Although the museum was not large, we were very impressed and felt as if we were standing there 6,000 years ago. The monuments were destroyed, but visitors can easily understand the life of people in ancient times through drawings and numerous panel displays, with English captions and some very effective video animations.

Second, Emperor Qin’s Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses is absolutely one of the wonders of the world. The figures had been buried underground for more than 2,000 years before they were discovered by accident. Since then, the area has become one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world. Each warrior has a unique face. Details were so painstakingly sculptured by ancient craftspersons that even their hairlines could be clearly identified. For thousands of years, the soldiers have been there, witnessing the rapidly changing world in solemn silence.

Third, the Han Yang Ling Museum features highly advanced preservation and exhibition techniques. The museum has an underground exhibition hall and visitors can observe scholars and employees at work without damaging the relics from the large glass floor on the upper side of the hall. There are glass walls and tunnels apart from the relics and a visitors’ area with different temperature and humidity levels to protect and maintain the relics on a large scale and also allow visitors to view the relics at various angles.

In Xi’an, the Han Yang Ling Museum was the most impressive place, in my option. The Terracotta Warriors are rigidly protected, but visitors are treated to a close look at the buried treasures in the shallow pits that are all carefully lit. The experience was fascinating. I particularly enjoyed strolling on the glass walkways above the pits.

If you are planning to visit the historic city of Xi’an, you should not miss the Banpo Site Museum, Emperor Qin’s Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses, and the Han Yang Ling Museum. Each museum has its own way of conserving and displaying artifacts and monuments, and they attract numerous visitors. All are prominent in terms of protecting and promoting archaeological relics.