|Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor|
|Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List|
|Criteria||i, iii, iv, vi|
|Inscription||1987 (11th Session)|
|Literal meaning||soldier and horse funerary statues|
The Terracotta Army or the "Terracotta 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 BCE and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.
The figures, dating from approximately the late third century BCE, were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong District, Xi'an, Shaanxi province. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Current (2007) estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits nearby Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum. Other terracotta non-military figures were also found in other pits and they include officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.
The Terracotta Army was discovered on 29 March 1974 to the east of Xi'an in Shaanxi province by a group of farmers digging a water well approximately 1.6 kilometres (0.99 mi) east of the Qin Emperor's tomb mound at Mount Li (Lishan), a region riddled with underground springs and watercourses. For centuries, there had been occasional reports of pieces of terracotta figures and fragments of the Qin necropolis –roofing tiles, bricks, and chunks of masonry having been dug up in the area. This most recent discovery prompted Chinese archaeologists to investigate, and they unearthed the largest pottery figurine group ever found in China.
In addition to the warriors, an entire necropolis built for the emperor also has been found surrounding the first emperor's tomb mound. The earthen tomb mound is located at the foot of Mount Li and built in a pyramid shape  with Qin Shi Huang’s necropolis complex constructed as a microcosm of his imperial palace or compound. It consists of several offices, halls, stables, and other structures placed around the tomb mound, which is surrounded by two solidly built rammed earth walls with gateway entrances. Up to 5 metres (16 ft) of reddish, sandy soil had accumulated over the site in the two millennia following its construction, but archaeologists found evidence of earlier disturbances at the site. During the excavations near the Mount Li burial mound, archaeologists found several graves dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where diggers had apparently struck terracotta fragments. These were discarded as worthless and used along with soil to back fill the excavations.
According to the writings of the historian Sima Qian (145–90 BCE), work on the mausoleum began in 246 BCE soon after Emperor Qin (then aged 13) ascended the throne, while the building work later involved 700,000 workers. Geographer Li Daoyuan, writing six centuries after the death of the First Emperor, recorded in Shui Jing Zhu that Mount Li was a favoured location due to its auspicious geology: "... famed for its jade mines, its northern side was rich in gold, and its southern side rich in beautiful jade; the First Emperor, covetous of its fine reputation, therefore chose to be buried there". Sima Qian, in his most noted work, Shiji, finished a century after completion of the mausoleum, wrote that the First Emperor was buried with palaces, towers, officials, valuable artefacts, and wondrous objects. According to this account, there were 100 rivers with their flow simulated by mercury, and above them the ceiling was decorated with heavenly bodies below which were the features of the land. Some translations of this passage refer to "models" or "imitations," however those words were not used in the original text, which makes no mention of the terracotta army.
Recent scientific work at the site has found high levels of mercury in the soil of the tomb mound, giving some credence to Sima Qian's account of the emperor's tomb. The tomb appears to be a hermetically-sealed space that is as big as a football pitch and located underneath the pyramidal tomb mound. It remains unopened, one possible reason may be concerns about the preservation of valuable artifacts once the tomb is opened. For example, after their excavation, the painted surface present on some figures of the terracotta army began to flake and fade. In fact, the lacquer covering the paint can curl in fifteen seconds once exposed to the dry air of Xi'an and can flake off in just four minutes. Later historical accounts suggested that the tomb had been looted by Xiang Yu, a contender for the throne after the death of the first emperor, however, there are indications that the tomb may not have been plundered.
Only a section of the site is currently excavated, while photographs and video recordings are prohibited in some viewing areas. Only a few foreign dignitaries, including Britain's monarch Elizabeth II, have been permitted to walk through the pits to observe the army at close quarters. There also is speculation of a possible Hellenistic link to these sculptures, due to the lack of life-sized and realistic sculptures prior to the Qin dynasty according to some scholars.
Construction of the Terracotta Army
The terracotta army figures were manufactured in workshops by government laborers and local craftsmen using materials originated on Mount Li. Heads, arms, legs, and torsos were all created separately and then assembled. Studies show that a total of eight face moulds were most likely used, with clay then added to provide individual facial features after assembly. It is believed that the warriors' legs were made in much the same way that terracotta drainage pipes were manufactured at the time. This would classify the process as assembly line production, with specific parts manufactured and assembled after being fired, as opposed to crafting one solid piece and subsequently firing it. In those times of tight imperial control, each workshop was required to inscribe its name on items produced to ensure quality control. This has aided modern historians in verifying which workshops were commandeered to make tiles and other mundane items for the terracotta army. Upon completion, the terracotta figures were placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty.
The terracotta figures are life-sized. They vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with rank. Most originally held real weapons such as spears, swords, or crossbows. Originally, the figures were also painted with bright pigments, variously coloured pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white, and lilac. The coloured lacquer finish, individual facial features, and weapons used in producing these figures created a realistic appearance. Most of the original weapons were thought to have been looted shortly after the creation of the army, or have rotted away, while the colour coating has flaked off or greatly faded.
There are four main pits approximately 7 metres (23 ft) deep associated with the terracotta army. These are located approximately 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) east of the burial mound with the soldiers within laid out as if to protect the tomb from the east, where all the Qin Emperor's conquered states lay. Pit one, which is 230 metres (750 ft) long and 62 metres (203 ft) wide, contains the main army of more than 6,000 figures. Pit one has 11 corridors, most of which are more than 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide and paved with small bricks with a wooden ceiling supported by large beams and posts. This design was also used for the tombs of nobles and would have resembled palace hallways when built. The wooden ceilings were covered with reed mats and layers of clay for waterproofing, and then mounded with more soil raising them about 2 to 3 metres (6 ft 7 in to 9 ft 10 in) above the surrounding ground level when completed. Pit two has cavalry and infantry units as well as war chariots and is thought to represent a military guard. Pit three is the command post, with high-ranking officers and a war chariot. Pit four is empty, perhaps left unfinished by its builders.
Some of the figures in pit one and two show fire damage while remains of burnt ceiling rafters have also been found. These, together with the missing weapons, have been taken as evidence of the reported looting by Xiang Yu and the subsequent burning of the site, which is thought to have caused the roof to collapse and crush the army figures below. The terracotta figures currently on display have been restored from the fragments.
A large number of other pits that formed the necropolis also have been excavated. These pits may lie within or outside the walls surrounding the tomb mound. They variously contain bronze carriages, terracotta figures of entertainers such as acrobats and strongmen, officials, stone armour suits, burials sites of horses, rare animals, and labourers, as well as bronze cranes and ducks set in an underground park.
Weapons such as swords, spears, battle-axes, scimitars, shields, crossbows, and arrowheads were found at the pits of the terracotta warriors. Some of these weapons, such as the swords are still very sharp and found to be coated with chromium oxide. This layer of chromium oxide is 10–15 micrometre thick and has kept the swords rust-free and in pristine condition after 2,000 years. Many swords contain an alloy of copper, tin, and other elements including nickel, magnesium, and cobalt. Some carry inscriptions giving dates of manufacture between 245 and 228 BCE, indicating they were actual weapons used in warfare before their burials.
An important element of the army is the chariot, and four types of chariots were found. In battle the fighting chariots form pairs at the head of a unit of infantry. The principal weapon of the charioteers was the ge or dagger-axe, an L-shaped bronze blade mounted on a long shaft used for sweeping and hooking at the enemy. Infantrymen also carried ge on shorter shafts, ji or halberds, and spears and lances. For close fighting and defence, both charioteers and infantrymen carried double-edged straight swords. The archers carried crossbows, with sophisticated trigger mechanisms, capable of firing arrows farther than 800 meters.
A collection of 120 objects from the mausoleum and 20 terracotta warriors were displayed at the British Museum in London as its special exhibition "The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army" from 13 September 2007 to April 2008. This Terracotta Army exhibition made 2008 the British Museum's most successful year, and made the British Museum the United Kingdom's top cultural attraction between 2007 and 2008. The exhibition also brought in the most visitors to the British Museum since the King Tutankhamun exhibition in 1972. It was reported that the initial batch of tickets to the Terracotta Army exhibition sold out so fast that the museum extended the exhibition until midnight on Thursdays to Sundays. According to The Times, many people had to be turned away from the exhibition, despite viewings until midnight. During the day of events to mark the Chinese New Year, the crush was so intense that the gates to the museum had to be shut. The Terracotta Army has been described as the only other set of historic artifacts (along with the remnants of wreck of the RMS Titanic) that can draw a crowd by the name alone.
A number of terracotta warriors and other artifacts were exhibited to the public at the Forum de Barcelona in Barcelona between 9 May and 26 September 2004, and it was their most successful exhibition ever. Next, the same exhibition was presented at the Fundación Canal de Isabel II in Madrid between October 2004 and January 2005 and it also was their most successful ever, by number of visitors. From December 2009 to May 2010 the exhibition was shown in the Centro Cultural La Moneda in Santiago de Chile.
The exhibition has travelled to North America and visited museums such as the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, Houston Museum of Natural Science, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, National Geographic Society Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Subsequently the exhibition travelled to Sweden and was hosted in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities between 28 August 2010 and 20 January 2011. An exhibition entitled 'The First Emperor – China's Entombed Warriors', presenting 120 artefacts from the First Emperor's burial site, was hosted at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, between 2 December 2010 and 13 March 2011. An exhibition entitled "L'Empereur guerrier de Chine et son armée de terre cuite" ("The Warrior-Emperor of China and his terracotta army"), featuring artifacts including statues from the First Emperor's mausoleum, was hosted by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from 11 February 2011 to 26 June 2011. The "Treasures of Ancient China" exhibition, showcasing two terracotta soldiers and other artifacts, including the Longmen Grottoes Buddhist statues, was held between 19 February 2011 and 7 November 2011 in four locations in India: National Museum of New Delhi, Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai, Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad and National Library of India in Kolkata.
A number of terracotta soldiers and related items were on display from March 15, 2013, to November 17, 2013, at the Historical Museum of Bern.
In 2007, scientists at Stanford University and the Advanced Light Source facility in Berkeley, California reported that powder diffraction experiments combined with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and micro-X-ray fluorescence analysis have showed that the process of producing Terracotta figures colored with Chinese purple dye consisting of barium copper silicate was derived from the knowledge gained by Taoist alchemists in their attempts to synthesize jade ornaments.
Since 2006, an international team of researchers at the UCL Institute of Archaeology have been using analytical chemistry techniques to uncover more details about the production techniques employed in the creation of the Terracotta Army. Using X-ray fluorescence spectrometry of 40,000 bronze arrowheads bundled in groups of 100, the researchers reported that the arrowheads within a single bundle formed a relatively tight cluster that was different from other bundles. In addition, the presence or absence of metal impurities was consistent within bundles. Based on the arrows’ chemical compositions, the researchers concluded that a cellular manufacturing system similar to the one used in a modern Toyota factory, as opposed to a continuous assembly line in the early days of automobile industry, was employed in the construction of the Terracotta Army.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Terracotta Army.|
- UNESCO description of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
- Official Website of the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shihuang
- People's Daily article on the Terracotta Army
- Microsoft Photosynth Experience of the Terra Cotta Warriors
- OSGFilms Video Article : Terracotta Warriors at Discovery Times Square
- The Necropolis of the First Emperor of Qin Excerpt from lecture
- China's Terracotta Warriors Documentary produced by the PBS Series Secrets of the Dead