Terracotta Warriors

(April 27, 2012)

The Terracotta Army or the "Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses", is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife, and to make sure that he had people to rule over. (Much more info here: wikipedia)

Terracotta is a type of clay. Our guide explained that the government now controls this type of clay so no one can copy it. I found it amazing that this site was found just recently, in 1974 by a farmer. Previous wells dug by the farmers in this area had narrowly missed digging in areas that contained the solidiers. In many ways, the site is sad. Starting at the age of 13, the new emporer Qin controlled 700,000 workers (aka, slaves) to prepare his tomb ... and the soldiers who would serve and protect him in the afterlife.

The initial two photos show the vanguard, the front line of defense. In many ways, the formations reflected battle strategies of the day. (It reminds me of playing "army men" with the boys as we carefully set up our men in certain formations.) The warriors were placed in parallel pits, covered with timbers, and then covered with earth. Each warrior is unique, including facial features, wrinkles on the forehead, creases in the palm of the hands, fingernails, hair, etc. You'll notice part way down, the horses and chariot rider (with his hands out). (A missing head is essentially a 'humpty dumpty situation': that particular soldier's head was in so many pieces, they could not piece it back together.) The heads were molded and made separately, with all pieces of body, head, etc. containing holes so that the clay would not crack when put in the kiln. One pit contains two chariots, a lead chariot and then (shown below) the emperor's covered chariot (this is a replica as the original is still under restoration). Just before the picture of the chariot is one of the few women figures. After the chariot is a relatively modern farmer's grave tomb; it just so happened to be between the trenches.

A few photos show a nearby archeological dig of a village near the warrior site. The egg-shaped pottery was actually a coffin for a young child; the hole, partially cracked here, was to allow the child's spirit to go in and out. The photos at the end are from the factory where replicas of the soldiers are made (and they will gladly try to get you to buy one). They come in all sizes. An interesting picture shows that the soldiers when first uncovered have color that unfortunately immediately fades away. It reminds me of a tragic WWI in-the-trenches picture. I'm shown with my new colleague from the UK (originally from northern Sudan), Gaisoni (Guy) and our private tour guide, "Christina" (Ms. Tong).