Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Qin Terracotta Warriors

Qin Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors, China

terracotta army xian assembling warriors

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor

Some farmers, a well and a mystery

In 1974 some farmers belonging to Lintong County of Shaanxi Province China were for a well; quite unexpectedly they stumbled upon some potteries and unusual materials; even in their wildest dreams they did not see that site was going to be one of the best known land marks of modern China.

A village finding its place among stars

Soon archaeologists took possession of the land and In 1975; what they initially found was only a tip of the ice-berg; after the potsherds there come out thousands of soldiers, horses, chariots and what not a full fledged army with all paraphernalia enough to rule an empire! Govt established a museum displaying the wonderful warriors with their horses ET all occupying an area of 16,300 sq meters.

The whole museum that has so far unearthed is divided in to three parts called as pits in which the objects are being restored and displayed. Behind some clay statues rising to the status as the pride of a big nation; there is a long history engulfed in mysteries.

China; the land that has many to make one wonder

terracotta warriors china

Terracotta detail. No two life-sized figures are alike in the tomb.

Whether the time is ancient, medieval or modern; China has always had something to make the world wonder; even in the ancient times it innovated printing, gun-powder and printing; built Porcelain Pagoda at Nanjing; in the medieval times it could build the Great Wall, Forbidden City; in the modern time also China does not cease to wonder the world as the fastest growing economy that turns out materials at fraction of its cost dubbed as ‘the factory of the world’.

Not cast in a mould

Even if all these being admitted; how come some clay statues considered as world wonder can be a relevant question. These statues are not made out of a mould like a cup of saucer; each statue has been tailor made by an artist to match the character; a soldier as a soldier where as an officer is made as an officer; clowns, musicians, courtiers, horsemen et all; each figure has some special feature to match its rank and social status. In short no two statues are alike.

All the paraphernalia for the emperor

terracotta army china

The Terracotta warriors were once highly coloured

Terracotta Warriors (soldiers and horses funerary statues of the Huang Di) is no less intriguing than any other wonders before the world; 8000 soldiers (they include rank and file) no two statues are similar as god had made men! 670 horses of which 150 are for the cavalry, 130 chariots, acrobats, musclemen and musicians, all categories of courtiers that existed in a palace premises are here in the form of statues. Each statue has its own individuality as a musician can be recognized from a soldier. This has made most of the scholars conclude that each of the statues represent a real person served office at that time.

Who built them?

Qin Shi Huang Di (his personal name was Ying Zheng) of the Qin Dynasty ruled China between 221 and 210 BC, was an iron man in all sense; it was he who unified China in to a mega empire, it was he who introduced ‘Legalism’ the first form of totalitarianism in to China (that system still works there successfully), it was he who first constructed massive road system in China thereby making it more unified; more over it was he who made a museum the size of a city.

A Karl Marx of BC!

officer terrakottaarmen

Qin Terracotta warriors china

Mr. Shi Huang has done many other things also he burned all the books containing the teachings of Confucianism and destroyed every literature that he thought not agreeing with his thinking (one of the earliest reported ideological purge) making only Emperor’s dictum to survive; making himself an earliest Communist- far before the birth of Karl Marx! Qin Shi Huang Di is considered the architect of China as he has unified the warring territories and gave birth to the great empire; in the present day China he is held in high esteem.


China an ancient nature with a rich culture had many known scholars who engaged in spreading wisdom through their teachings. There were divergences among their teachings and four such schools were most prominent. First of course is Legalism which is for total subservience on the part of the subjects whatever the emperor has dictated has to be followed; no questions asked; mean rule of the law in the most brutal sense; the other three are Confucianism, Daoism and Mohism.


qin terracotta army china

Qin TerraCotta Warriors China

Sima Qian (145 to 90 BC); son of a perfect of the Han Dynasty; is considered as the father of Chinese historiography; his acclaimed work ‘Records of the Grand Historian’ which gives a record of 2000 years long history of China from the ‘Yellow Emperor to Wudi of the Han dynasty. As per Sima Qian this necropolis was made in 246 BC as an imperial palace constructed near Mount Lishang; Qin Shi Huang Di was the first to be buried there.

Sima Qian

Terracotta Warriors as per Sima Qian are Qin’s army; made to rule his empire at the nether world. Along with the warriors items like utensils, most exquisite materials available at that time, 100 synthetic rivers made of mercury; and what not all paraphernalia for the emperor. The tomb is enclosed in an earthen pyramid of 76 meters tall and 350 meters wide that has so far not opened. The saddening thing is that in the necropolis a walled structure that is comprised of various buildings several human remaining were found and they are thought of the workers who were shut inside; an ancient practice of killing the workers after the work so that the inner secrets are not leaked!

Pit-full of wonders

xian museum terracotta warriors

Qin Terracotta Warriors China

The Soldiers and horses are arranged in a military formations in 4 pits, the first one which is the biggest located about 1.5 km from the tomb is 230 meters long with 11 corridors. It is 3 meter wide and five meters deep; it contains 6000 soldiers facing the east (it was from the east the empire faced most threats). It is presumed that they were guards for the protection of the tombs; its design also has signs that this space was used by nobles. The second one was intended for cavalry and infantry units as there are chariots belonged to be of military guards. Pit number 3 is for high ranking officers and presumed that it was intended as a command post where as pit number 4 was unfinished and empty.

Gereral Xiang Yu

Sima Qian has described of one General Xiang Yu who led his forces to the site soon after the construction of the tomb and engaged in rampant looting and arson; as a result the wooden structures that contained the statues got extensively damaged and rare and valuable artifacts which would have been of immense importance at the present time were looted; inflicting one of the greatest national losses to the nation of China. In this carnage only one statue of an archer survived undamaged in this carnage. Tremendous amount of resources and time was required for the restoration of the statues and the restoration work is yet to complete.

Warriors under attack!

qin terracotta soldier horse

A terracotta soldier and his horse

The whole of king’s army horses and weapons find it hard to counter the devastating effects of tourism and the atmospheric pollution. Unless the Government takes drastic steps coming generations will not be fortunate enough to see these wonderful army. The influx of tourists have made many problems to the warriors who were lying there undisturbed for several centuries; humidity from the breathing air adds humidity that promotes growth of moulds on the clay structures; the heat in these pits have slow oxidizing effect on clay surface and cause fading its luster; moreover the opencast coal mining method of China release so many soot to the air that gets accumulated everywhere including these valuable artifacts speeding up their gradual degradation.

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