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Sep 19, 2010
While my husband and I were travelling in China we were able to see the life size terracotta horses and warriers. It was an amazing sight. Traditionally this may not be thought of as art, however, I can tell you that these magnificent figures are, indeed, art. They are larger than life--that is, larger than the actual Chinese warriers were at that time. The figures, both horses and humans, also have carved armor. Horses are considered mystical or mysterious animals in China. They have been used for leisure, agriculture and war throughout China's history.
So what is the terracotta army? The Terracotta Army (literally "soldier and horse funerary statues") is a collection of terracota figurines depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China. The figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (Chinese: Qín Shihuáng Ling).
The figures vary in height 1.83-1.95 metres (6.0-6.4 ft), according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.Background
The Terracotta Army was discovered in the spring of 1974 in the eastern suburbs of Xi'an, Shaanxi Province by a local farmer named Yang who was drilling a water well 1.5 miles east of Mount Li. The region around the mountain was riddled with underground springs and watercourses, and every little extra bit of water helped when it came to irrigating fields. In 195 B.C., Liu Bang himself - the first emperor of the dynasty that followed the Qin - had ordered that 'twenty households' should move to the site of the mausoleum of the First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang, "shi huang" means the first emperor) to watch over the tomb. To this day, twenty villages sit in the immediate vicinity of the mausoleum, one of them the hamlet where the Yang family lived; the terracotta army may have been rediscovered by the direct descendants of the people left to guard it. For centuries, there were reports of pieces of terracotta figures and fragments of the Qin necropolis-roofing tiles, bricks, and chunks of masonry-having been occasionally dug up in the area.
This most recent discovery prompted archaeologists to investigate. The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art buried with the First Emperor of Qin in 210-209 BC. The Army's purpose was to help rule another empire with Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as "Qin's Armies." The material to make the terracotta warriors originated on Mount Lishan. In addition to the warriors, an entire man-made necropolis for the emperor has been excavated. Up to 5 meters (16 feet) of reddish, sandy soil had accumulated over the site in the centuries following its construction, but archaeologists also found evidence of earlier, impromptu discoveries. During the digs at Mount Li, archaeologists found several graves from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, whose diggers had obviously struck terracotta fragments, only to discard them as worthless with the rest of the back-filled soil.
According to historian Sima Qian (145-90 BC), construction of this mausoleum began in 246 BC and involved 700,000 workers. Geographer Li Daoyuan, six centuries after the death of the First Emperor, explained that Mount Li had been chosen as a site for its auspicious geology: it once had a gold mine on its north face and a jade mine on its south face, demonstrating not only its sacred value, but also perhaps how the tunnels had come to be dug in the first place. Qin Shi Huang was 13 when construction began. He specifically stated that no two soldiers were to be made alike, which is most likely why he had construction started at that young age. Sima Qian, in his most famous work, Shiji, completed a century after the mausoleum completion, wrote that the First Emperor was buried with palaces, scenic towers, officials, valuable utensils and "wonderful objects," with 100 rivers fashioned in mercury and above this heavenly bodies below which he wrote were "the features of the earth." Some translations of this passage refer to "models" or "imitations," but he does not use those words.
Recent scientific work at the site has shown high levels of mercury in the soil on and around Mount Lishan, appearing to add credence to Sima Qian's writings. The tomb of Shi Huang Di is under an earthen pyramid 76 meters tall and nearly 350 square meters. The tomb remains unopened, in the hope that it will remain intact. Archeologists are afraid that if they do excavate the tomb, they might damage some of the valuables buried with emperor Qin Shi Huang. Only a portion of the site is presently excavated, and photos and video recordings are prohibited in some areas of the viewing. Only few foreigners, such as Queen Elizabeth II, have been permitted to walk through the pits, side by side to the army.
Qin Shi Huang's necropolis complex was constructed to serve as an imperial compound or palace. It comprises several offices, halls and other structures and is surrounded by a wall with gateway entrances. It was also said as a legend that the terracotta warriors were real soldiers, buried with Emperor Qin so that they could defend him from any dangers in the next life.Construction
The terracotta army figures were manufactured in workshops by government laborers and by local craftsmen. The head, arms, legs and torsos were created separately and then assembled. Studies show that eight face molds were most likely used, and then clay was added to provide individual facial features. Once assembled, intricate features such as facial expressions were added. It is believed that their legs were made in much the same way that terracotta drainage pipes were manufactured at the time. This would make it an assembly line production, with specific parts manufactured and assembled after being fired, as opposed to crafting one solid piece of terracotta and subsequently firing it. In those times of tight imperial control, each workshop was required to inscribe its name on items produced to ensure quality control. This has aided modern historians in verifying that workshops that once made tiles and other mundane items were commandeered to work on the terracotta army. Upon completion, the terracotta figures were placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty.
The terracotta figures are life-like and life-sized. They vary in height, uniform and hairstyle in accordance with rank. The colored lacquer finish, individual facial features, and actual weapons and armor from battle used in manufacturing these figures created a realistic appearance. The original weapons were stolen by robbers shortly after the creation of the army and the coloring has faded greatly. However, their existence serves as a testament to the amount of labor and skill involved in their construction. It also reveals the power the First Emperor possessed, enabling him to command such a monumental undertaking.Pits
The four pits associated with the dig are about 1.5 km east of the burial ground and are about 7 meters deep. The outside walls of the tomb complex are as if placed there to protect the tomb from the east, where all the conquered states lay. They are solidly built with rammed earth walls and ground layers as hard as concrete. In addition to delineating the site, these served to protect the ground beneath the site from springs in the area, as also mentioned in the Shiji. Pit one, 230 meters long, contains the main army, estimated at 8,000 figures. Pit one has 11 corridors, most of which are over 3 meters wide, and paved with small bricks with a wooden ceiling supported by large beams and posts. This design was also used for the tombs of noblemen and would have resembled palace hallways. The wooden ceilings were covered with reed mats and layers of clay for waterproofing, and then mounded with more soil making them, when built, about 2 to 3 meters higher than ground level. Pit two has cavalry and infantry units as well as war chariots and is thought to represent a military guard. Pit three is the command post, with high ranking officers and a war chariot. Pit four is empty, seemingly left unfinished by its builders.British Museum Exhibition
A set piece of 120 objects from the mausoleum and 20 terracotta warriors were displayed at the British Museum in London as its special exhibition "The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army" from September 13, 2007 to April 2008. This Terracotta Army exhibition made 2008 the British Museum's most successful year ever, and made the British Museum the United Kingdom's top cultural attraction between 2007-08. The exhibition also brought in the most visitors to the British Museum since the King Tutankhamun exhibition in 1972. It was reported that the initial batch of pre-bookable tickets to the Terracotta Army exhibition sold out so fast that the museum extended the exhibition until midnight on Thursdays to Sundays. According to The Times, many people had to be turned away from the exhibition, despite viewings until midnight. During the day of events to mark the Chinese New Year, the crush was so intense that the gates to the museum had to be shut. The Terracotta Army has been described as the only other set of historic artifacts (along with the remnants of ruins of the RMS Titanic) which can draw a crowd simply on the back of the name alone.
For More Information:Horses in Ancient China