11 September 2009
Guardian spirits of Ancient China
In 1974 farmers near Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China unearthed a clay head. Thirty-Five years later the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C. – 210 B.C.), has unveiled its massive terracotta army. Estimates place around 8,000 soldiers, 520 horses, 150 cavalry horses, 130 chariots, and over 10,000 metal weapons, each intricately designed, in the mausoleum. Other figures, including officials, acrobats, and even bronzed wildlife, have also been found at the site. Each figure in the military formation is unique which has led many to theorize that the figures are based upon real individuals. The construction of this vast complex took 700,000 laborers over thirty-six years to complete. Since 1987, the site has been listed as a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).While several figures have been touring as a part of a British Museum exhibit, most recently seen in Atlanta, GA, Epcot’s China pavilion now showcases an exhibit dedicated to the terracotta army. Tomb Warriors: Guardian Spirits of Ancient China displays numerous reproductions from the terracotta army, and other unique figures from China’s ancient cultures.My favorite figure found in the exhibit is the Storyteller, who dates back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220 A.D.). One of the many figures meant to entertain in the afterlife, the Storyteller is a very animated figure, both in his body language and facial expression. In fact, it appears as if he is ready to begin his tale, as with his right hand he is silencing the audience and with his left he is amplifying his ability to listen intently. While we may never hear his voice, or watch this army move in formation, if we are patient enough as we make our way through the exhibit we can see that there are many untold stories just waiting to be uncovered.