The Terra Cotta Army: China’s First Emperor and the Birth of a Nation

The Terra Cotta Army: China’s First Emperor and the Birth of a Nation

John Man

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 030681840X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Terra Cotta Army is one of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever made. Over seven thousand life-size figures of warriors and horses were interred in the mausoleum of the first emperor of China—and each figure was individually carved.

Weaving together history and a first-hand account of his experiences in China, John Man tells the fascinating story of how and why these astonishing figures were created in the third century BC, and how they have become a symbol of China’s history, culture, and society.

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and more of a brilliant and original leader, as befits the man who unified China and left a spirit army that is the admiration of the world. 26 WA R R I N G S TAT E S , C O N F L I C T I N G I D E A S 3 WARRING STATES, CONFLICTING IDEAS FROM HIS REPUTATION, YOU WOULD THINK THAT THE FIRST Emperor, who ‘unified China’, invented the very idea of unity. Not so: it was an idea rooted much further back, in a dreamtime of scanty records where figures and themes and events drift like ghosts. It is

industrial-scale artistry, no tomb-mound, no need for a spirit army at all. There are many surprising things about the Army. For one thing, the warriors were never intended to be seen, or at least not by human eyes. For another, it is strange that these clay figures – terra cotta means nothing more than ‘baked earth’ – with their shades of greys and blue-greys and browns and oranges were not like this when they were buried, but lurid with bright colours. Our view of them is skewed by events: by

centuries before on the advice of Lord Shang, who saw that an 47 ORIGINS ambitious, centralized state needed a capital better placed for assault. Both new and old Xianyang lie on the north bank of the river Wei, which flows eastward to the Yellow River, 130 kilometres away. What a contrast it makes to drive between the two Xianyangs. If you start with new Xianyang, half an hour by expressway from the later capital, Xian, there is nothing in the surge of new building to suggest an ancient past.

present by ‘declaiming on antiquity’. They didn’t see the need to sweep away the old, as His Majesty has done. His Majesty has unified all under heaven, yet still there are those who criticize and debate, which they can do because they have access to the opinions of others. And they’re proud of it! If such behaviour is not prohibited, ‘then in upper circles the authority of the ruler will be compromised, and in lower ones cliques will form’. The answer is to ban works of literature and poetry,

linking the seasons with bodily organs, by applying complex astronomical and calendrical systems, by imposing concepts of alternating Yin and Yang forces, and by using divination, notably the Yi Jing (I Ching). How this world interacted with the next was a matter of much dispute. Some rivers were seen as spirits, and so were some mountains. Here one could get direct access to the spirit world – hence the First Emperor’s mountain-climbing tours and the shape of his tomb and those of his immediate

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