At A Glance
c.246 BC: Creation Who Built the Terra Cotta Warriors?
Who Built the Terra Cotta Warriors?Qin Shi Huang – The First Emperor of Qin Dynasty.
Soon after he succeeded the throne, he ordered to build his mausoleum at the foot of Li Mountain in Xian. Terra cotta warriors were actually part of his grave goods. It is believed that manpower of 700,000 was involved through a period of 40 years.
Take a look at his bio here.
Discovery of the Underground Military Force from Qin Dynasty
The site being the most significant archeological discovery in the Twentieth Century was discovered in 1974 when farmers digging a well unearthed broken pieces of terra cotta warriors.
Further discoveries included thousands of terra cotta soldiers, war chariots, terra cotta horses and weapons, all in life-size. Arrays of terra cotta soldiers were set up like an actual battle field.
The Qin terra cotta warriors and horses reflect a great marvel of ancient Chinese civilization. The objects found demonstrated extremes of human capabilities in many aspects such as creativity, magnificence, skills of sculpture, pottery making and preservation.
What Were Found?
Over 8,000 terra cotta soldiers, horses and chariots, all facing east were unearthed. Basically there were four types of figures: generals, soldiers, archers and military advisers. So far, only seven generals were found. However nobody can explain the absence of a commander-in-chief.
Currently three trenches had been excavated. As they were over 2,000 years old, you would expect some soldiers had missed their heads and with broken or fractured bodies. Heavy restoration work has been ongoing.
Each of the trenches is five meters below ground level. Figures were placed in corridors or chambers separated by earthen walls. Large wooden planks were placed on top to form the roof which was covered with reed mats topped by a layer of moisture-proof red clay. Bricks were used to form the flat floor where the soldiers and horses stood.
Let’s look at the trenches one by one.
Terra Cotta Warriors – Close Up
The terra cotta warriors represented unbeatable achievements in the history of ancient Chinese sculpture. You must be completly impressed by their tremendous attention to details.
All the 8,000 life-size terra cotta soldiers were unique in appearance. You won’t find two of them look the same. It is obvious that they were crafted from life models. Each figurine's head appears to be unique in facial features, expressions and hair styles. Even their belt hooks, shoe ties and costume details were finely sculpted. The uniform they wore represented their post and ranking in the army.
The figurines are in various postures including standing infantry and kneeling archers as well as charioteers with horses. Their posture is usually related to the weapon they hold.
The colouring of the terra cotta figurines was another major achievement. Despite the 2,000 years of corrosion, the paint fragments on the figurines indicated the terra warriors were originally covered with various bright and brilliant colours. The imposing terra cotta warriors must have presented a magnificent scene prior to being buried in the trenches!
Weapons – Close Up
Terra cotta warriors not only replicated the Qin army in a macro view, they were designed in way to replicate the weapons as well. Each figurine was, in fact, armed with a real weapon. Over 10,000 bronze weapons of extensive varieties have been unearthed.
Here is a short list of the weapons held by the terra cotta soldiers:
The weapons were finely finished in a way beyond our imagination. Archeologists found that the bronze weapons were coated with a 10-micron layer of rust-proof chromic salt oxide – a technique not developed in Europe and America until recent times.
Terra Cotta Horses and Chariots – Close Up
Soldiers and horses were warring partners in ancient times. Horses constituted a significant number in the terra cotta army. More than 600 terra cotta horses have been excavated from all the three trenches. They were mainly battle steeds and chariot teams. Horses have an average measurement of about two meters in length and 1.72 meters in height, quite close to actual size.
Terra cotta horses featured strong limbs, large heads, protruding noses, short necks and wide shoulders. The muscular horses appear ready for action with ears erect and flaring eyes. Some with raised heads and open mouths appeared to be neighing.
Why Were the Terra Cotta Warriors All Facing East?
Qin was the west-most in terms of location among the seven warring states. Therefore their enemies were all from the east. The terra cotta army was buried east of the Qin Mausoleum. All the terra cotta soldiers were facing east. These demonstrated the designers’ critical thinking and strategic wisdom.
Usually burial objects are not placed as far away as 1,500 meters from the tomb. However the terra cotta army was set there to safe guard the king, the 1,500 meters therefore made sense.
Qin Shi Huang not only wanted to be the greatest king when he was alive, but after life and even forever. Therefore he wouldn’t allow a chance for the other six warring states to rebel. The terra cotta army set there was meant to suppress them. It was also the terra cotta army who had executed his dream of everlasting.
What Made the Terra Cotta Army Long Lasting?
Research showed that even with today’s technology, it is difficult to reproduce a pottery figure of same quality as the terra cotta warriors unearthed in Xian. Consider these 2,000 years old life-size pottery figures, their construction technology had reached the extreme of human capabilities for the period.
Studies indicated that the terra cotta warriors were fired at high temperature of between 950 and 1,100 degrees Celsius. With hollowed heads, bodies, arms and solid legs, the terra cotta warriors were exceptionally hard.
Xian is located at the southern part of the Loess Plateau of China. Weather is generally dry and cool. This forms a perfect natural storage environment for the terra cotta soldiers to sleep for 2,000 years without much erosion.
Are There Burial Objects Other Than the Terra Cotta Army?
Yes, quite obviously.
Though 1,500 meters formed a security zone for the king, would there be any other burial objects in that area? Probably yes.
In June 1996, a small trench of 153 square meters nearby Qin Mausoleum was discovered. Unlike others, there were no figurines. Instead, thousands of stone warring customs were found. Obviously it was the supplies unit of the terra cotta army.
In 1980s, a bronze horses and carriages trench was unearthed 20 meters west of the Qin Mausoleum. The replicated imperial carriages of Emperor Qin Shi Huang had given us the first ever glimpse of its kind and helped us visualize the magnificent scene of an imperial tour.
In June 2000, another small trench was found. Other than bodies of steeds, there were 12 figurines however none of them looked like a warrior. They looked more like civil officers. From the objects they held, archeologists were able to define two of them to be Heads of Justice. Hence, the other 10 could be members of the Justice Department. As Qin Shi Huang ruled his country by law, it was obvious that he brought his legal officers along with his army.
It was likely that Qin Shi Huang wanted to bring with him not only treasures and army, but the whole of his empire to his after life. At Li Mountain of Xian, areas with the Qin Mausoleum as the center, there are likely to be treasures of every kind. Archeologists strongly believe that there is an underground miniature of the whole of the Qin Empire.
As a matter of protection, visitors has to walk for about 500 meters from the car park to the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum. You can pay ¥2 for a shuttle bus ride for the last 100 meters.
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