In 1974, well diggers outside of Xi’an, China, dug up what remains today one of the most notable archaeological discoveries of all time: The Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di- The first Emperor of China.
Immediately, the shocked workers, unsure of what they had stumbled upon, contacted the Chinese Government who as of 2007, had unearthed over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 horses and 150 calvary horses- a amount far greater than anyone initially expected. Each soldier was meticulously carved with unique facial characteristics and dressed in the garb of their rank and trade. Patches of now gray paint even hint at brightly colored clothing. However, the true magnitude of this discovery went far beyond the discovery of the terracotta works themselves, but what they, along with the numerous artifacts also recovered, revealed about the strategic and technological nature of Emperor Qin’s Ancient Chinese Empire.
Dating back to 221 BCE until 207 BCE, there isn’t too much that remains from the Qin dynasty’s reign in the way of technology and military text, leaving researchers ecstatic upon realizing numerous bronze weapons were left in the trenches along with the soldiers. Among these weapons are (then) technologically advanced crossbow, designed with a loading mechanism which would have allowed for faster and more accurate loading/firing of the weapons with devastating impact on the enemies of the the Qin Empire. Researchers have even been able to determine the nature of the young emperor’s battle tactics through the positioning of calvary and archers throughout the three pits excavated.
So great have been the treasures discovered within the pits, that many now wonder if we should just excavate Emperor Qin’s mausoleum; the very tomb that it is widely accepted the warriors were commissioned to defend. Sitting on a large mound nearby the terracotta pits, it is believed that his tomb could likely hold immense treasures, as well as reveal more about the Emperor himself. From what we do know, he was notoriously obsessed with immortality, and took capsules of mercury as a dietary supplement, a practice that the Ancient Chinese believed to provide life everlasting. Ironically, this very deed would cause his health to decline until his death sometime in 210 BCE. Perhaps his tomb contains Ancient Chinese medical texts? Perhaps he had his medical staff buried with him? Unfortunately, due to concerns over the preservation of what is inside the earth sealed tomb, we may not know for quite some time.
Despite this, there is still currently plenty to appreciate from what has been excavated and we spent the weekend doing just that. The Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington currently has a special exhibit open which displays 10 of the terracotta figures, including everything from a musician, to a civil official; all of which are displayed in their current state and without embellishment or accessories. Though it would be nice to be able to see them as they once were, there is something mysterious about the figures as they are now. As stated, each has a unique face, carved with emotion that seems to even be reflected through their gazes. Some have their hands out, whispering of weapons once held or instruments carried. Most have gray splotches littering their exteriors, revealing that once their garb was far more colorful than it is now.
Standing amidst all of this history and culture was an extraordinary experience and we absolutely recommend paying a visit in person to see the Terracotta Warriors in whatever form you can. Until then, we have a few photos to hold you over and transport you 2,227 years ago into a time of mystical burial practices, unmatched craftsmanship and top-notch mystery.
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M & B
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