Special Sub-Topic: The Terracotta Army
|For which Chinese Emperor was the Terracotta Army created?|
Qin Shi Huang. Qin Shi Huang was the first Emperor of China. He unified China in 221BC and ruled over it until his death, aged 50, in 210 BC. Prior to that he was King of the State of Qin. During his reign he brought in a series of major economic and political reforms, which included abolishing feudalism and dividing China into administrative districts. He also started major building programmes including the first version of the Great Wall of China. His was a tyrannical rule, but he is still regarded as a pivotal figure in Chinese history.
|In which year did Chinese farmers digging a well discover the Terracotta Army?|
1974. For years the land above the burial pits had been shunned by the local population due to the high proportion of pottery shards, kiln ash and other debris it contained, making it very poor farming land. In 1974 local workmen were drilling to sink an artesian well when they discovered the head of the first terracotta warrior. They alerted the authorities to their find and archaeologists started investigations, uncovering the most important site ever found in China.
|The Terracotta Army was built to guard a fabulous mausoleum, which contained palaces, towers and rivers. What material were the rivers made of?|
Mercury. The body of the Emperor lies in a pyramid, which is inside a complete necropolis containing everything he would need in the after life. A history written approximately 100 years after his death refers to palaces, temples, towers and 100 rivers of mercury. Investigation of the land above the necropolis has shown unusually high levels of mercury in the soil, leading to the belief that at least this part of the description of the necropolis is correct.
|Is it true that each of the 8000 or so figures so far discovered have different facial features?|
Yes. The Emperor ordered that every warrior should be completely individual. Investigation shows that all the heads were made from one of 8 moulds, and then individual features such as mouth, nose and hairstyle were added by hand when the fully assembled warrior was placed in the pit. They are all life size and are also graded by height, with Generals being taller than Privates.
|How old was the Emperor when construction of the Terracotta Army and mausoleum started?|
Thirteen. According to historian Sima Qian construction began in 246BC when Qin Shi Huang was just 13. Although not Emperor at that stage his wealth and power must have been considerable to be able to command such an enterprise at such a young age. The same historian also claims that 700,000 workers were used on the project, but this claim is viewed with a degree of scepticism in the light of what is now known of the population of China at that period of its development.
|In addition to the infantry soldiers, what other figures are found in the Terracotta Army?|
All of these (Archers, Cavalry, Charioteers). In addition to the army there are chariots, horses, charioteers, archers (both standing and kneeling), acrobats, musicians, court officials and strongmen. In other words, everything needed to serve, amuse and defend the Emperor in the afterlife. Although it cannot be proved, there is a school of thought that each and every figure depicted is based on a real life person of the time.
|What happened to most of the workmen who built the Terracotta Army and tomb?|
They were killed. Most of the workmen who were still working on the tomb when the Emperor died were buried alive with him to serve him in the after life. They were not alone; also buried alive with him were concubines, clerks, scribes, cooks, personal servants and minor court officials. Once the tomb was sealed it is believed it was then booby trapped with crossbows to deter grave robbers. Although, as at 2010, the earth pyramid containing the body has not been opened it is believed to be intact.
|What method of construction was used for the Terracotta Army figures?|
They were made in pieces and assembled on site. The army was made on the equivalent of a production line. Legs were made by the same method as was used for terracotta drain pipes, heads formed in moulds elsewhere, arms and torsos somewhere else. The component parts were then assembled in their battle formation ranks, and individual facial features, appropriate weapons and rank markings added. A lot of kiln ash and broken pottery has been discovered around the site indicating a virtual factory was present.
|As well as the terracotta figures themselves many weapons have also been unearthed. What are these mostly made of?|
Bronze. Although many weapons were taken by grave robbers at various times, there have been some magnificent bronze weapons discovered. Long swords, spears, billhooks, scimitars, arrows and crossbows have all been found, all as sharp as when they were buried. One sword found on an officer of the chariots measures 120cm.
|The Terracotta Army guard the way to the Emperor's tomb. How far away from the start of the army is the actual tomb?|
One and a half Kilometers. The army stretches an impressive one and a half kilometres before you come to the gates of the necropolis itself. Buried in three pits it totals, so far, some 8000 warriors, and thanks to the work done in the years since it was discovered most of them are now intact. Sadly, although the tomb has brought tourists and riches to China, the people who discovered it have not shared in this. Their land was taken by the Government and their homes demolished to make way for the exhibition centres, and their 2000 year old village has now virtually disappeared while they live in poverty.
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