Tales from the Tomb – Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and His Legacy

October 15, 2011 at 12:13 am | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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Some times ago, Itchyfingers visited this exhibition and before we realised, it will be ending this Sunday 16 Oct!

Terracotta Warriors exhibition at Asian Civilisation Museum

Once you go up the stairs, download the Apps if you have an iPhone. It is
good that museums are embracing technology to bring a better and more
interactive learning
experience for visitors

A very interesting model showing the process of making the terracotta 
warriors and horses. Here the workers assembled different parts to
make a warrior, just like our modern-day assembling line in factories! Hahah…
Clay was formed into slabs or pressed into moulds, or it could also be
coiled into body parts before being joined together using wet clay, starting
with the base and lower legs. After the basic form of each figure was
completed, facial features would be sculpted and details such as fair
and armour were added. Reminded me of the painting of the making of
buddha statues by Yamaguchi Akira in the exhibition titled, Singa-planet

The process of making a horse. Here, a worker was being punished. There
should be a plain background behind these models so that the photo will
not look so messy with the windows behind…

Get the activity sheet from the counter so that you can emboss the print
on the correct answer…Good for kids and kid-at-hearts! Haha…

According to the introductory board, “The First Emperor, Shi Huangdi 秦始皇 (259 – 210 BCE), is one of the most controversial figure in China’s history. He unified China by conquering several smaller states and established a centralised government. But he was also remembered for his brutality and his suppression of Confucianism. The discovery in 1974 of thousands of figures buried near his tomb outside Xián added a surprising dimension to his reputation. These warriors and horses were made of terracotta (low-fired clay) and originally painted in brilliant colours. In addition to his militaristic reputation, the First Emperor commissioned objects of astonishing beauty and sophistication.”

Like some of them shown here…

Bell with intertwined dragons and phoenixes on the flanges

Incense burner topped by a phoenix with a ring in its beak. Four imaginary
creatures around the edge also hold rings. The sphere consists of interlaced
serpents that form a textile-like pattern, while the base is made up of small
warriors and tigers 

This bird-shaped finial was originally decorated on top of a dagger-axe.
The bird, said to be perhaps a turtle-dove, represented longevity and authority.
I thought it looked more like a flamingo without the long legs…hahah 

Gorgeous belt hook with several dragons and serpents elegantly twisted
around one another from the 6th century BCE,
 Spring and Autumn period

This golden tiger with a comical grin and scrolling patterns on the body was
a military tally used in the Warring States period

Two duck-shaped belt hooks from the Spring and Autumn period. All these
are pretty tiny, so you may have missed them if you merely take a quick look

The inscription on this bronze tiger-shaped military tally shows that the 
object was used to confirm orders from the emperor. The tiger is divided into
two halves – one half kept by a commander and the other by the emperor,
 would send his half to confirm the authenticity of his order 

These are replica of the two half life-size bronze chariots discovered on the 
west side of the First Emperor’s tomb mound

The original chariots have separately cast parts, with some components
inlaid with gold and silver, and are too fragile to travel and thus have never
left China 

The enclosed carriage is probably like the one used by the emperor on his
inspection tours 

Mould for banliang (半两) coins (top right), Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE).
The First Emperor enacted strict laws to standardise coinage. The circular-
shaped with a square hole coins may have symbolised heaven and earth.
This shape remained the model of Chinese currency for nearly 2000 years.
wuzhu (五铢) coin mould (left) were introduced under the Han Dynasty
(118 BCE – 9 CE) to replace the banliang coins of the Qin Dynasty. It was
one of the 
most successful coins ever and continued to be used until 621,
being found in 
Korea, Vietnam and Central Asia as the Han empire expanded

Then finally Itchyfingers were standing in front of the Terracotta Warriors…

Just imagine the reaction of the people who first discovered the thousands 
of terracotta figures! It must have been such an impressive sight! Itchyfingers
hope to go visit the actual site one of these days…

At the front was this impressive looking figure from Pit 1 of the First
Emperor’s tomb complex. “The distinctive headdress and tassels on the
 chest and back identify this figure as a general. He is taller and more
than the other terracotta figures.”

This light infantry officer “can be identified by their moustaches and 
headdresses. They were taller than the average terracotta soldiers but not
as tall as the general. This figure probably held a lance or spear, and grasped
a shield with his other hand. The hair and headdress are finely detailed.”

We know this is a charioteer from “the position of his arms holding reins
and the loose sleeves. The remains of 126 chariots have been found in this
Pit 2. Each was drawn by four terracotta horses, driven by a charioteer,
and accompanied by one or two soldiers.” 

Standing archer wearing no armour and only a tunic for better mobility. 
“The position of his arms shows that he was using a bow. Standing archers
usually stood behind the kneeling archers.” 

The Armoured officer “wears a cap typical of the palace guard, and this
may be evidence that the figures are the personal guards of the emperor

rather than the regular army.”

The cavalryman needed to be mobile on their horses, hence he “wears 
trousers, boots and an armoured vest. In the pits, each rider stood holding
the reins of his horse…Military texts reveal that cavalry were often used as
scouts and as tactical warriors.”

Terracotta horse

Following the death of the First Emperor came the rapid fall of the Qin Dynasty. The Han Dynasty was established in 202 BCE by Liu Bang 刘邦. However, many of the reforms were retained – like the small seal script, standardised weight and measures and revised coinage etc. Han tombs, while retaining the long tradition of burying terracotta figures, wanted to separate themselves as much as possible from Shi Huangdi. Their tombs were much simpler and the terracotta figures were also much smaller and represented many aspects of life.

“The Yangjiawan 杨家湾  terracotta army near the Changling Mausoleum
of Liu Bang (Emperor Gaozu of the Han Dynasty) in the northeastern
Xianyang of Shaanxi was discovered in 1965. The occupants of the Yangjiawan
tomb were supposedly Zhou Bo and his son Zhou Yafu of the early Han Dynasty.
Both of them were high-ranking military officials. A total of 2,549 terracotta
figurines were unearthed from the funerary pit, including 583 cavalry ones,
1,965 infantry troops and music-playing ones, and one commanding figurine.
The total number of troops and horses was said to be over 3,000 at the
time of excavation.”

Pottery animals excavated at Yangling, the tomb of the fourth Han emperor,
comprised of both the males and females, like
 this hen and rooster shown here.
This ensured a continual supply of food
 for the emperor in the afterlife. Han
burials emphasised the ordinary aspects of life, especially agricultural

So you see, this exhibition “sets the First Emperor’s terracotta warriors in a wider context, by examining the period that led to the creation of a unified China, as well as the legacy of his tomb in the later Han Dynasty.” Even those relative new tombs in our own Bukit Brown have stone sikh soldiers guarding them! Quite an interesting exhibition indeed. So if you have not visited this blockbuster exhibition, please grab your last chance this weekend! Admission is FREE for all!

Also see related post:
> Come See! Come See! Come See Before it’s Too Late! – The Kangxi Emperor Exhibition


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