Terracotta Army - Why and How it was made

The most popular theory about why The Terracotta Army was made is built to protect Emperor Qin’s rule and military power in the afterlife. The Terracotta Army figures excavation was regarded as one of the greatest discoveries in the 20th century. In Dec. 1987, UNESCO ranked the Tomb of the First Emperor (including the Terracotta Army Vaults) into the list of World Cultural Heritages.

Why the Terracotta Army Was Made

There are three popular theories about why the Terracotta Army was made.

First of all, it was built to protect Emperor Qin’s rule and military power in the afterlife. Emperor Qin was a believer in feudalistic superstition. He believed in immortality, and people could still enjoy what they had in another world even after they had died. He wanted to have the army protect and serve him in the afterlife, just as in his earthly lifetime. Hence when he was alive, he spent lots of time and military effort searching for the "elixir of life", as well as building this huge Terracotta Army for his empire in the afterlife.

Secondly, it’s said that the Terracotta Army was built to display Emperor Qin’s glory. He unified China and built one of the most powerful empires at the time, and he was dedicated to showing it to the whole world and making sure his descendants could remember him as a legend. Hence, he built this Terracotta Army.

Thirdly, it’s also said that these life-sized statues were substituted by actual human sacrifices. In feudal society, leaders and soldiers were buried with funerary objects after they died. Such objects included jewelry, slaves, weapons, silk, and satin. As an emperor, Qin had even more magnificent sacrificial objects.

How the Terracotta Army Was Made

Making Terracotta Army

Making Terracotta Army

Most of the terracotta warriors remain vivid and complete, even though they suffered years of exposure. For decades, archaeologists have pondered how ancient artisans made such indestructible warriors in such a relatively short period of time, and they finally found out.

The warriors were made from yellow earth (a kind of clay), which is very adhesive and easy to obtain. It can be found around the site. As technology was limited at the time, there were no advanced tools, and all warriors and horses were made by hand, step by step.

Torso, head, legs, arms, and hands were all created separately. Then artisans would assemble them to create complete warriors. That’s why some lost individual heads or legs after years of natural corrosion. There were over 700,000 people involved in building the Terracotta Army and it took about 40 years (246 BC-206 BC) to finish it.

Following are the 6 steps involved in making a terracotta warrior.

1. Getting the clay
The clay can be found around the site. It was screened and ground to remove impurities, such as leaves, big stones, and rubbish.

2. Making the parts separately: head, torso, hands, arms, and legs
Artisans used corresponding molds to make heads, torso, hands, arms, and legs. Straight arms, legs, and hands could be molded easily. Bent arms had to be made in separate pieces, dividing at the elbow.

3. Assembling parts together
All complete pieces would be attached together with mud.

4. Carving the details
Technical artisans did careful carving to make the terracotta warriors more lifelike and vivid, with ears, mustaches, hair, clothes, and weapons.

5. Firing in kilns
The complete models were put in a kiln and calcined until they were hard. The model had small holes in some places, making sure flames could enter the model's body cavities. And the models were placed upside down when firing.

6. Glazing and coloring
On the surface, terracotta warriors were rough and uneven after firing. Artisans would glaze them and paint them with different colors to make them brighter and more natural.

Terracotta Army Tour with Beijing and Shanghai

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