TERRACOTTA WARRIORS

BACKGROUND

In 259 BC a concubine bore the son of King ZhuangXiang, the King of Qin.  The son was named Zhaozheng, but that was late changed to Yingzheng.  When his father died in 247 BC, Yingzheng became the king of Qin.  Nine years later, at the age of 22, he began running the kingdom himself, taking over the duties of his mother and others.  He assembled an army and began conquering the other six states that existed in China at that time. After the conquests were complete in 221 BC, he named himself QinShihuangDi, the first emperor of China. Construction of his mausoleum and additional sites began soon after he became king at the age of 13 and continued until 208 BC, two years after his death in 210 BC. A mound approximately 250 feet high was constructed of earth to cover the mausoleum. The terracotta army site is situated about a mile east of the mausoleum and was constructed to guard the emperors tomb. The location of the terracotta army was undiscovered for nearly 2000 years because of the way the site was constructed. The warriors were placed on a pottery brick floor in long corridors. Each corridor was separated by an earth wall a few feet in thickness, which served to support massive wooden timbers to serve as a roof for the soldiers. Above the roof, fibrous mats and earth were placed to a depth of several feet to completely conceal the terracotta army. Vandalism and burning of much of the roof system that occurred during the reign of the following dynasty as well as collapses that occurred in later years resulted in moderate to severe damage to the soldiers and horses in the site.

DISCOVERY OF THE TERRACOTTA ARMY

On March 29, 1974 local farmers were digging a water well in the small village of Xiyang, in Lingtong County, Shaanxi province, China. This village lies near the northern slope of Mount Li, approximately 22 miles east of the city of Xian. At a depth of about 20 feet, they discovered bronze weapons and pottery fragments. The find was reported to the government and 4 months later an archaeological team began exploration and excavation of the site. Vandalism and burning of much of the roof system that occurred during the reign of the following dynasty as well as collapses that occurred in later years resulted in moderate to severe damage to the soldiers and horses in the site. By the time Emperor QinShihuangDi’s Terracotta Museum was opened to the public in October 1979, over 1000 life-size terracotta soldiers and horses had been restored and were on display. Currently, there are several thousand soldiers and horses on display at the museum and excavation and restoration are continuing. It is estimated that at least 8000 full size soldiers and horses will be recovered and restored at the site. Thousands of weapons, including crossbows, swords, spears, etc. have also been excavated at the site. Of the soldiers that have been restored, all faces have different features, suggesting that the soldiers may have been modeled from actual soldiers in Emperor Qin’s army.    

HOW THE WARRIORS AND HORSES WERE MADE

Clay from local deposits was utilized to make the terracotta figures. Separate segments of the figures were molded or hand formed and then pieced together before firing to form a single piece. Heads of the warriors were formed in two piece molds. Facial features were then formed by hand and added to the head. The heads were fired separately from the bodies and the necks were sized to fit into the neck holes of the bodies. Ornamentation on the armor and torso of the warriors and the saddle and harnesses of the horses was also formed by hand and attached to the figures before firing to temperatures of about 1600 degrees Fahrenheit.  Clay for the replica warriors and horses comes from the same deposits that were utilized for the original figures. Construction and firing of the figures at the current time is done essentially the same as it was done over 2200 years ago. These warrior and horse replicas are representative of one of the most interesting and fascinating archaeological sites in the world and with proper care, these figures could also last for centuries.