On this Day:
On March 29, 1974 Chinese farmers discovered the Terracotta Army near Xi’an; 8,000 clay warrior statues buried to guard the tomb of China’s 1st emperor, Qin Shi Huang.
The Terracotta Army 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 BCE with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife.
The figures, dating from approximately the late third century BCE, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong County, outside Xi’an, Shaanxi, China. The figures vary in height according to their roles, the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits near Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum. Other terracotta non-military figures were found in other pits, including officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.
The Terracotta Army was discovered on 29 March 1974 by a group of farmers—Yang Zhifa, his five brothers, and neighbour Wang Puzhi—who were digging a well approximately 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) east of the Qin Emperor’s tomb mound at Mount Li (Lishan), a region riddled with underground springs and watercourses. For centuries, occasional reports mentioned pieces of terracotta figures and fragments of the Qin necropolis – roofing tiles, bricks and chunks of masonry. This discovery prompted Chinese archaeologists, including Zhao Kangmin, to investigate, revealing the largest pottery figurine group ever found. A museum complex has since been constructed over the area, the largest pit being enclosed by a roofed structure.
Types and appearance
The terracotta figures are life-sized, typically ranging from 175 cm (5.74 ft) to about 200 cm (6.6 ft) (the officers are typically taller). They vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with rank. Their faces appear to be different for each individual figure; scholars, however, have identified 10 basic face shapes. The figures are of these general types: armored infantry; unarmored infantry; cavalrymen who wear a pillbox hat; helmeted drivers of chariots with more armor protection; spear-carrying charioteers; kneeling crossbowmen or archers who are armored; standing archers who are not; as well as generals and other lower-ranking officers. There are, however, many variations in the uniforms within the ranks: for example, some may wear shin pads while others not; they may wear either long or short trousers, some of which may be padded; and their body armors vary depending on rank, function, and position in formation. There are also terracotta horses placed among the warrior figures.
Pigments used on the Terracotta warriors
Originally, the figures were painted with: ground precious stones, intensely fired bones (white), pigments of iron oxide (dark red), cinnabar (red), malachite (green), azurite (blue), charcoal (black), cinnabar barium copper silicate mix (Chinese purple or Han purple), tree sap from a nearby source, (more than likely from the Chinese lacquer tree) (brown). Other colors including pink, lilac, red, white, and one unidentified color. The colored lacquer finish and individual facial features would have given the figures a realistic feel, with eyebrows and facial hair in black and the faces done in pink.
However, in Xi’an’s dry climate, much of the color coating would flake off in less than four minutes after removing the mud surrounding the army.
Some scholars have speculated a possible Hellenistic link to these sculptures, because of the lack of life-sized and realistic sculptures before the Qin dynasty. They argued that potential Greek influence is particularly evident in some terracotta figures such as those of acrobats, combined with rare bronze artifacts made with a lost wax technique known in Greece and Egypt. However, this idea is disputed by scholars who claim that there is “no substantial evidence at all” for contact between ancient Greeks and Chinese builders of the tomb, and the bases of such speculation are often imprecise or false interpretation of source materials or far-fetched conjectures. They argue that such speculations rest on flawed and old “Eurocentric” ideas that assumed other civilizations were incapable of sophisticated artistry and thus foreign artistry must be seen through Western traditions (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Did You Hear about the Accident at the Army Base?
A tank ran over a box of popcorn and killed two kernals!
Second, a Song:
Weird History states: “Welcome to the chronicles of history that your social studies class never covered in high school. This is for the extreme, the unexpected, the untold and the flat-out weird parts of history. Because as weird as people seem today, we don’t hold a candle to history.”
Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, built the huge Terracotta Army to protect him in the afterlife. An elaborate tomb complex in Xi’an, the city-size compound came equipped with everything the emperor would require in the afterlife. Like the Egyptians, the ancient Chinese believed the items they took with them to the grave would accompany them into the afterlife. But instead of burying actual people with him underground, the emperor created clay reproductions of warriors, servants, horses, and other objects. An incredible feat of design, the army also features a number of ancient Chinese inventions, many of which no one realized dated back as far as the Qin dynasty (per Weird History and YouTube.com).
Here is Weird History’s “Fascinating Facts About China’s Terracotta Army”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.” – Thomas Paine
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky