Song dynasty writer Liu Yi once wrote “Reading ten thousand books is not as useful as travelling ten thousand miles.”
Now, I’m not sure that’s true – because I’ve seen a number of travellers who would have been better off to stay at home, given how little they have learned in their journeys.
I am reminded of the couple we met in Thailand whose first activity, after checking into their hotel, was to look for an Irish Pub – because one of them ‘didn’t like foreign food’.
But I also have to say that travel generally DOES broaden the mind – and that seeing and experiencing new things is much more fulfilling than merely reading about them.
For example, I’d read about the Terracotta Warriors buried in the mausoleum of Chinese Emperor-General Qin Shi Huang – but until I saw the excavated pits outside Xian, I didn’t fully grasp the sheer scope of this funerary art.
In case you aren’t familiar with them, there are more than 8000 terracotta sculptures buried near the burial mound of Emperor Qin – the first emperor of China, in the third century BC
They, along with statues of horses, and chariots (and jugglers, entertainers and court officials) were interred to the east of the Emperor’s final resting place – as if to protect him from the enemies that he may have created in carving out an empire.
They remained buried, undiscovered, until 1974 when local farmers discovered their burial pits – and reportedly panicked, believing that the life-size statues were in fact ghosts.
Scientists were excited and began to excavate the so-called ‘terracotta warriors’ – but soon discovered what a bad idea that was.
The weather in Xian is so harsh and dry that what was left of the lacquered finish on the warriors would begin to flake within seconds, and could be destroyed in as little as four of five minutes.
Since then, as you can see, a giant air-conditioned museum structure has been built over one pit – while others remain sealed, awaiting their moment of glory.
As it turns out, the distance between our home in Brisbane and Xian, site of the Terracotta Warriors, is closer to five thousand miles than the ten thousand that Liu Yi spoke of .. but I suspect he was speaking metaphorically.
And I personally reckon ten thousand books would also go an awful long way to widen one’s base of knowledge, as well. 🙂