The Terracotta Warriors are considered sculptures depicting the armies of the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (Portal IV). In 1974, the sculptures were discovered by local farmers while digging boreholes (Portal IV). The farmers discovered sculptures of some earthenware soldiers buried deep beneath the ground. Estimates made by archaeologist revealed that there were three pits containing the Terracotta Warriors consisting of 8,000 Terracotta soldiers, 520 horses, 130 chariots, and 150 cavalry horses (Portal 167). The soldiers were dressed in body armor, armed with real weapons, and arranged in fighting positions in preparation for war in order to protect the dead emperor. Since ancient Chinese people believed in the preservation of immortality for their leaders, the dead emperor was supplied with the sculpted soldiers and other materials to recreate and maintain the emperor’s empire in the afterlife.
In today’s modern China, the Qin Shi Huang emperor’s graves represent one of the most important parts of history that are both cultural and economic. Culturally, the graves are a national symbol that depicts a unified China. In addition, the emperor is believed to have attained immortality. Economically, the emperor’s graves are one of China’s largest tourist attractions that are providing Chinese people with jobs in exhibition and excavation sites. Thus, this paper’s concentration is to examine the origin of the sculptures, with a major focus on the Chinese Terracotta Warriors. Additionally, the paper will provide a comprehensive description of the impact of the sculptures in contemporary China.
History of the Occurrence of the Sculptures
The Terracotta Warriors sculptures excavation is considered one of the greatest archeological findings in the entire world. The sculptures, dating from the late 3rd century BCE that had lain underground for more than 2000 years, were discovered by local farmers in 1974 while digging boreholes in Lintong District, Xi’an, and Shaanxi province (Portal 102). In 2007, estimates that were made by archaeologists revealed that there were three pits, currently named as vault one, two, and three containing the Terracotta Warriors consisting of 8,000 Terracotta soldiers, 520 horses, 130 chariots, and 150 cavalry horses which remain buried nearby at Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum (Portal 167). The history of the Terracotta Warriors’ graves that is maintained by Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum helps in tracing the discovery and scientific investigations undertaken to ascertain the rich historical discovery.
The history is well articulated with helpful maps, vivid photos that help both the Chinese and tourists comprehend human history in China (Bailey 39). The discovery of the Terracotta Warriors has changed the way historians understand the Chinese history because studying the contents of the grave not only provides important information concerning China’s first emperor but also assists in the understanding of how China has been able to have a united country. For instance, vivid photos that show soldiers, chariots, and horses show that China was not a primitive civilization but rather an advanced civilization with a well-structured military.
Evidence of the Existence of the Chinese Terracotta Warriors
On the discovery of the First Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s grave, the archaeologists found a huge burial mound, about 400m square, with a ceiling decorated with heavenly bodies as well as unexcavated wealth including jewels, gold, jade, and rivers of mercury among other valuable objects. The World Heritage Site offers in-depth information concerning the mausoleum pits and artifacts collected during the excavation that further provides enlightenment about the Qin Shi Huang (World Heritage Site). According to current reports, archaeologists have discovered a 20-square-mile compound, including some 8,000 Terracotta soldiers, 520 horses, 130 chariots, and 150 cavalry horses (Portal 167). According to Zhixin, Emperor Qin Shi Huang left a legacy of cultural architecture, unification, sophisticated army, and weapons that were all excavated from the three discovered graves (Zhixin 110). The cultural architecture in the excavation site, especially in pit one or grave one, were discovered showing some level of advancement in a period where architecture was only considered to be only advanced in Egypt.
For instance, the pit had soldiers with the height of about 177.7 cm that reflected the height of the people of China during that time (Komlos par.1). The wooden ceilings were covered with layers of clay and reed mats to prevent water from entering the pit. Apart from the impressive cultural architecture, the graves were discovered to have a sophisticated army with infantry and cavalry units as well as war chariots that represented a military guard capable of defeating enemies (Zhixin 110). Weapons, such as spears, scimitar crossbows, arrowheads, battle-axes, and swords were also discovered in the graves. A number of the weapons, such as swords, were discovered to be coated with a layer of chromium dioxide that made sure the swords were did not rust for nearly 2,000 years (Zhixin 110). The evidence of the existence of the Terracotta Worriers, such as 8,000 Terracotta soldiers, 150 cavalry horses, 520 horses, and 130 chariots have demonstrated that the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang was indeed a great ruler during his time.
Significance of Chinese Terracotta Warriors’ Sculptures
The Chinese Terracotta Warriors’ sculptures have a lot of significance in the Chinese cultural tradition and the economy, especially the belief in the afterlife, style of ruling, and tourism. As mentioned above, since ancient Chinese people believed in the preservation of immortality for their leaders, the dead emperor was supplied with the sculpted soldiers and other materials to recreate and maintain the emperor’s empire in the afterlife. In fulfilling the belief of ancient people in China concerning afterlife, Qin Shi Huang spent a lot of his life searching for immortality and built himself a grave complex enough to hold 8,000 Terracotta soldiers, 150 cavalry horses, 520 horses, 130 chariots, and (Portal 167), where he hoped to spend his life after death. The sculptures of the soldiers that measured 5 foot 11 inches tall with some soldiers as tall as 6 foot 7 inches made to represent all battalions in ancient Chinese Army were to protect and guard the emperor in his rule in the afterlife. Due to Qin Shi Huang’s belief of the afterlife, the people in China in today’s world continue to believe in life after death.
Apart from Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s belief in the afterlife, the Terracotta grave illustrates his unique style of leadership. In an article examining how weapons were made for the Terracotta Warriors, the authors explore the relevance of the Terracotta figurines in weapon making by providing an in-depth analysis on the industrialization of the Qin Shi Huang’s dynasty; which is evident in the tombs excavated by archaeologists (Marcos et al 70). For example, his dynasty made use of industrialization to make sophisticated weapons, such as swords, arrows, and chariots. As explained before, the blade of the swords was welded and coated with a 10 – 15 chromium dioxide that ensured they were rust-free for about 2,000 years (Zhixin 110). The swords contained an alloy of tin, copper, and some elements of magnesium, cobalt, and nickel.
The sophistication of the sword suggests that the emperor understood the importance of industrialization, especially in making weapons that could defeat enemies easily. Furthermore, the soldiers in the tomb had different rankings for example, their archers, cavalrymen, infantrymen, and generals. This implies that the emperor’s military was well organized for war against enemies. He could delegate some work to his generals to give orders to the archers, cavalrymen, and infantrymen to attack enemies without his permission. Therefore, it can be said that according to the discovery of sculptures of soldiers, horses, chariots, and cavalry horses in Qin Shi Huang tomb, his style of ruling was unparalleled in ancient times and similar to the style of ruling in today’s world, where the military consists of army both in the air and on the ground to fight the enemy effectively and efficiently.
While the significance of the tomb of Terracotta Warriors sculptures has provided insight into the belief in afterlife and style of ruling of China, its significance in terms of the economy is far more beneficial. One benefit is the employment of individuals in the excavation sites, especially for the restoration of some of the remaining warriors in the tomb. Another benefit is the revenue received from the tourists in China and from all over the world visiting the tomb. Therefore, it can be deduced from above that the Terracotta Warriors Sculptures tomb has been vital in China in ensuring the world understands the history of the country and why the style of ruling in the country has been able to provide for a population that is over one billion.
It is evident from the discussion that the Terracotta Warriors are sculptures depicting the armies of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang and his quest for the continued rule in the afterlife. In the discussion, it was shown that the construction of sculptures of soldiers in China, the Terracotta Warriors remain relevant to the Chinese history. For instance, the emperor drew inspiration from Greek art and in search for immortal life, commended the construction of Terracotta Warriors to guard him in the afterlife. This was shown by the 8,000 Terracotta soldiers, 520 horses, 130 chariots, and 150 cavalry horses, which are life-size statues of infantryman, cavalry, archers, charioteers, and generals, were buried in three pits at the burial site for the First Emperor Qin. Also, the emperor’s style of ruling where archers, cavalrymen, infantrymen, and generals were used showed his advancement in his style of ruling. Since the discovery of the tombs, the history of China has received a lot of attention from different scholars as they try to understand the times and life of the ancient times when China was under the leadership of First Emperor Qin. For instance, scholars have been trying to understand Qin Shi Huang and his obsession that made him create a tomb with believable human bodies that took about 700,000 workers and three decades to construct.
Bailey, Diane. Emperor Qin’s Terra-Cotta Army. Minnesota, U.S.A. ABDO Press, 2015. Print
Komlos, John. “The Size of the Chinese Terracotta Warriors-3rd Century B.C.” Antiquity: A review of World Archaeology. Department of Archaeology, Durham University.
Marcos, Martinon-Torres, Xiuzhen, Janice Li, Bevan, Andrew, Xia, Yin, Kun Zhao and Rehren Thilo. “Making Weapons for the Terracotta Army.” Archaeology International 13 (2011): 65-75. Web. 26 Mar. 2016.
— “Crossbows and imperial craft organization: the bronze triggers of China’s Terracotta Army.” U.K: Antiquity Publications Ltd. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
Portal, Jane. The First Emperor – China’s Terracotta Army. London: British Museum, 2007. Print.
World Heritage Site. “World Heritage China the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuang.” Documentary video. YouTube. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
Zhixin Jason Sun. “The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta.” American Journal of Archaeology
113.3 (2009). AJA Online. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.