In 247 B. C, the self-proclaimed “first emperor of china” put together an enormous army of soldiers to fight the wars that ravaged all over china. The emperor seemed undefeatable and fearless, but deep inside he had a huge fear, that is… death. A few years before he sensed the ending of his life, Emperor Cheng decided to recreate his entire army out of clay to protect him in his passage to the underworld.
Sacrifices had before been used for grand burials as such where the army would die along with the emperor, but in a time like such the emperor knew this would cause china to be vulnerable and did not want to sacrifice the grand empire he had created for most of his life. This thus led to the creation of the elaborate tomb of the terra cotta warriors and their king. The emperor may have seemed nice to decide not to sacrifice anyone but the truth is many died in order for his wishes to be fulfilled. When he ordered the warriors to be made they did not magically appear from the soil beneath his feet.
In order for them to be made he commanded hundreds, if no thousands of skilled artisans to create them. Each soldier needed to be different and represent a certain soldier. The artisan’s lives depended on these soldiers so the work ended up being quite elaborate and detailed. Each soldier, acrobat and archer, along with the horses, was all different, each with their own story to tell. They all had different expressions, stances, outfits, etc. Because of these intricate patterns and details, we can tell that these sculptors were not any joking matter.
Human lives depended on each face, and tiny detail to be absolutely perfect and this was very complicated to do since each warrior was made using coiling method (based on archeological theories). No molds were being used, or anything that could make the job easier. Another thing that the terra cotta warriors tell us about China during the Qin Dynasty is that after the emperor passed away he may have wanted to take his empire with him, thus the reason of the huge army as well as other things found in his tomb. Small scales of palaces and buildings he had ordered to be built were also found in his tomb.
The reason why this may have happened may have been so that he would have something to rule over in the afterlife. In ancient China it was believed that you continued on into the afterlife as you were when you died, especially where social status was concerned. The higher status you had in life, the closer to Shang Di (the Lord of the afterlife) you would be in the afterlife. Having a complete representation of his empire and the things he commanded, including the terra cotta army, allowed Qin to enter the afterlife with a clear proof of his status that could not be challenged by the lord.
The artists that used the terracotta clay were often threatened to be hurt by the king. To make it impossible to be punished for little errors on their work, they made their signatures hard to find on the soldiers. One rule was set though: The artist MUST put his name on the sculpture. Emperor Qin made it his duty to punish whoever didn’t follow this rule, and would kill or mutilate over hundreds of the sculptors every year. With that stress on their shoulders, the workers had no room for error.
They had to follow all the rules and could most definitely not stand up for others and themselves. That would be a death sentence in itself. Once the emperor Qin died, the people made it their duty to seal his coffin properly so that he would remain well preserved. Despite the people not having to worry about the king, the people still feared the emperor coming back from the dead, and to the people an angry emperor’s soul would mean bad luck to all the people of the Qin dynasty.
Courtney from Study Moose
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