China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuang, planned to spend his afterlife buried in a palatial tomb, surrounded by all his worldly treasures. To guard his mausoleum, he commissioned an army of terracotta warriors unlike anything seen before or since.
In addition to the magnificent treasures, the First Emperor’s tomb is also a hidden, underground empire. Archaeologists estimate that there are about 8 000 terracotta figures in the areas surrounding Qin Shihuang’s tomb, including horses, archers, charioteers, infantry, and generals. Most of the terracotta warriors are over six feet tall, substantially larger than the average citizen of the Qin empire at the time.
Each warrior is unique, with distinct faces that mirror the diversity of individuals who would have made up an actual army. The warriors were all painted by hand, enhancing the realism of the army as a whole. Each warrior was also stamped with the name of the foreman responsible for its creation, in order to track any mistakes.
In order to make the terracotta warriors, it is estimated that more than 1,000 convicts and conscripts were pressed into service, divided into groups, and overseen by the Emperor’s foremen. Workers prepared massive amounts of clay for production and built each warrior by hand. Moulds were used to form the feet and other body parts, and workers assembled the warriors from the ground up before taking the completed warrior to a giant kiln for firing.
The Terracotta Army is an unmissable slice of history. Discover the mystique of ancient China for yourself at Gateway, Umhlanga Ride, Durban and coming soon to Johannesburg and Cape Town.