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The Tomb & 
The Terracotta Army

Elvira Valentina Resta

Arts & History Writer

(Italian version)

A collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the army that still protects the tomb of the First Emperor of China today

In 1974, peasants in the countryside of Xi'an were digging a well and reached a depth of 4 meters. They discovered the head of a statue, its arms and the body all stylized in arms. They had just discovered one of the treasures of archaeology. Under their feet existed the terracotta copy of a Chinese army of 22 centuries ago. A 12,000 sqm pit along with 6,000 statues were discovered. Then, two more pits were discovered; one with 1000 warriors and another with the entire headquarters. 

The army had a rectangular pattern. The warriors are still in combat formation and are spread over 38 columns. There are cavalry, archers, crossbowmen and then aurighi (charioteers) with 4 horse-drawn carts. They were executed with extreme precision by making perfect copies of real soldiers by assembling various pieces. Each warrior has unique facial features. The infantry, archers, generals, and cavalry are different in their expressions, clothing, and hairstyles. They are very tall and standing on guard.   Every statue was colored and when seen from afar, had to look like a real army, motionless. The army is terracotta but in their hand, they had real weapons, all original; more than 10,000 were found: double-edged swords,  still very sharp today; hundreds and hundreds of darts, arrowheads and very strange blades that were fixed on top of wooden rods and functioned like a lance. Sharp and squat spear tips emerged and sharp daggers have been perfectly preserved. Finally, the shooting mechanisms of wooden crossbows have emerged that have, of course, disappeared, but the metal part has been perfectly preserved. This is because, to prevent corrosion, the craftsmen used chrome laminates so that these weapons looked brand new.

 

Why was the terracotta army made? The first Emperor who unified China, Qin Shi Huang Di, wanted it. The tomb is buried under a large mound that originates a hill and the army was to protect the tomb but also the emperor himself in the afterlife. After his death, large riots took place and the peasants went to take up arms from the soldiers, destroying them and burning the wooden structure that covered them, collapsing on them. In 1987 the mausoleum was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The Tomb & The Terracotta Army

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