Terracotta Army

The front rows are fully restored.

The front rows are fully restored.

Following the Warring States period, China was unified for the first time under the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE.)  Almost immediately after his ascension to the throne, the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, ordered the construction of the Terracotta Army and his mausoleum, just east of Xi’an.   Rather than bury live soldiers, which had been the previous tradition for an Emperor wanting to be protected after death, Qin Shi Huang had individual statues of each of his soldiers made.

They are buried in long rows, with rows of soil between, and the whole was covered by a wooden roof on top of which was another 6 feet of soil. Originally, each soldier carried a weapon. But shortly after Qin died, rebellious factions unearthed the mausoleum, burned the wooden roof, took the weapons and smashed many of the soldiers.

It was not until 1974 when the Terracotta Army was rediscovered by local farmers digging a well.

The burial site is huge. The first building we entered was the size of several football fields. The photos in this post show the wide angle view as I walked clockwise around the edge.

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There are soldiers of all ranks, distinguishable by their headgear. There are horses and there may have been carts but the carts were probably stolen with the weapons.   If the soldiers originally held weapons, their hands are still in the position they would have been in to hold the weapon. But the weapons have not been recreated.

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As soldiers are uncovered, they are cleaned and repaired, and restored to the line where they belong.  The warriors on the higher level in the next photo were in the process of being repaired. As pieces are found which belong to a particular soldier, they are added to the waiting statue. The ones on the lower level may be waiting for their mates, and to be reinstalled in the appropriate trench.

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Another view of the same area.

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At this point I have circled most of the building and am nearing the front again.  It’s huge, right?  Well there were two more buildings covering other parts of the site but neither was as impressive in size.

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A note about the photography at this site. The light levels were very low, as is typical of museums and other buildings which preserve antiquities. Hence there is a lot of ‘noise’ or grain in the photos. The walls were painted a bluish colour and the lights must have been some sort of fluorescent because every picture turned out to be a slightly different colour. The soil was reddish, the tops of the rows between the soldiers were black (from where the roof had been burned) or green (from mould?). I’ve tried to standardize the colour, but had only limited success.

Next post: Closer views of Terracotta Warriors

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3 comments on “Terracotta Army

  1. Denis says:

    Absolutely stunning, I had no idea how large this site really is, thanks for sharing Joan and a very happy 2014.

    • buntymcc says:

      And that is only one of three buildings. The other two are smaller but each covers a section of the ‘burial’ site on which they are currently excavating and restoring. If only there were not so many people visiting – but China does have 1.4 billion people and they are becoming consumers of their own cultural history in a big way.

  2. I have visited this place.

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