Monday, July 18, 2011

Terracotta Warriors

Xi'an Terracotta Warriors
Several months ago the Nat Geo channel here ran a program on the Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Xi'an.  I had not heard of them before, but was completely fascinated by the show.  So I was very interested when I learned that the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) here in Singapore was presenting an exhibit of a few of the terracotta soldiers.
For those who are not familiar, the Terracotta Warriors are an army of clay "soldiers" that were discovered in Xi'an, Shanxii, China in 1974.  They were buried in what appears to be a mauoleum for Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, dating to ~210 BCE.  The army was intended to provide him with a protection "army" for ruling his empire in the after life.  A practice perhaps similar to that used by the Egyptians.

What is remarkable about the terracotta warriors is that they number in the thousands-- estimates are around 8000 (excavation of the site is incomplete, and has been ongoing since its discovery).  The pieces are life size, and no two pieces are the same.  Because of the sheer number of pieces, it is estimated that it required nearly 35 years and perhaps as many as 700,000 persons to create the army and mausoleum.  In addition some archeologists believe there may be additional burial sites nearby that have yet to be discovered.
Mount Lishan archeological site--  now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Singapore ACM Exhibit:
The exhibit at the Singapore ACM is rather small-- about 12 of the terracotta soldiers, some additional artifacts, and a replica of a bronze carriage that was found at the mausoleum.  The original is apparently "too fragile to leave China", as the poster for the replica indicates.  The exhibit also includes some terracotta burial figures from earlier period ruler's mausoleum--  this was apparently a common practice of the time.  (My ignorance of Asian history and culture is evident).  However, his were miniatures in comparison with the Xi'an soldiers, which are life size, each unique, and far more detailed.  Qin Shi Huang, as the first Emporer of China, apparently was not to be outdone by anyone.  As they say, "He who dies with the most toys, wins!"  Now I finally get that saying!

The exhibit was worth seeing, and I hope to visit again, when we have guests here next month.  My camera battery died shortly into my first minutes at the exhibit, so some of these pictures are phone quality only.

Terracotta soldiers--  these were once brightly painted, now laid bare with time.  Some smaller clay figures, from a different tomb (not detailed) in the exhibit once had wooden arms that moved, and clothing, which has completely decomposed.
The terracotta soldiers on exhibit
Kneeling Archer--  The front line of the archery division.  These soldiers wore light armor, unlike their companion archers who stood behind them.  It is believed the soldier figures in the mausoleum were equipped with actual weapons--  wooden bows and arrows, which have turned to dust centuries ago.  The exhibit included some remnant components of weaponry-- a silver trigger from a crossbow, and bronze tips and axes blades from battle lances.
Standing archer-- The terracotta soldiers were aligned in the burial pit as they might be in true life.  This is a standing archer, who wore very light clothing, no armor.  These archers would stand behind the kneeling archers in battle formation.
Infantryman--  infantrymen were distinguished by the soft cloth cap they wore.  (This one looks like he was holding a beer or something!)
Cavalry Horse--  This is believed to be a horse for cavalrymen, but perhaps actually for some other function.  Note that saddle has no stirrups, which would have made mounting and controlling the horse difficult.
Bronze bell-- 
Ceremonial dagger--  gold and jeweled handle, with bronze blade

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