Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Terracotta Soldiers or the Burried Army

What better soldiers than those out of terre cuite? That's what i think anyway, although it might not exactly be a defendable concept for the weapons' market or the political elite. Hey, don't the chinese possess the wisdom in its infinitesimal detail? That's at least how their First Emperor saw his army - all terracotted!

Seriously though, this is a stunning story a friend of mine brought up in conversation last week as she visited the Mausoleum during her China trip. Very like the Egyptians, a Qin emperor Shi Huangdi, who also was the instigator of the Great Wall (unifying several pre-existing walls), started to create his burial monument when he became emperor. The project was finished a couple of years after his death, taking over 700 000 workers and over 30 years to complete. The result is one of the most extra-ordinary archeological finds of the last century - over 8 000 soldiers and their horses, each sculpted with a unique facial expression, garment and color depending on rank that protect the yet unexcavated tomb of the emperor. Sure, this is more of an immortality dream than anything else, in addition to being a strong symbol of China's power (reflected nowadays through several medium, i.e. Zhang Yimou's movies) and nationalism. But then it is also a monument to those 700 000 workers (and no, i'm not wearing red today) that managed this feat and created the mystery for us to contemplate - and were supposedly burried at the site as well not to divulge the secrets of the place...

Moral of the story - the emperor died anyway and never managed to find the immortality potion, his army was disarmed and burned a couple of years later (today soldiers have no colors and no weapons), and the whole story forgotten. If not for a couple of well diggers in the 1970ies, Xian would receive much less tourists today!

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