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The Art of the After Life!


The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.

The army is a form of funerary art which was buried with the emperor upon his death and sealed into his tomb.

The army itself was commissioned by the Emperor during his rule as he wanted to create a magnificent place of burial where he could be laid to rest in the style and manner he was accustomed to in life.

In case you were wondering, that was complete and utter extravagance!

4 pits containing the army have been uncovered and consist of over 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots & 520 horses! All life size.

All soldiers are carved with different facial characterises and expressions and are place in position of rank within the army. The effort gone into these works is completely nuts for something which was going into the ground and never to be seen again; BUT it does stand to show just how important being properly equip for the afterlife was to the emperor!

Each warrior was also hand painted in bright colours, although only a few remaining soldiers retain any traces of their paint. Each also originally held a real weapon too. Over 40,000 bronze weapons were found with the army.

The works were buried with the emperor in 221 BC and were not discovered until 1974 by a group of local farmers who were digging a water well!

There does not appear to be a great deal on art production/commissions during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, but he is known for his extravagant building habit. The most notable of which is the Great Wall of China!

Despite this, he was also known to burn large quantities of literature in the country which he did not agree with so; although not an all-round patron of the arts, he has definitely contributed to some of the world’s most impressive creations!

Fun Fact: Parts of the Army have gone on world tours! Most recently in the UK, they made a stop in Liverpool for an exhibition in 2018. They came to the British Museum in 2008 and were so popular the museum had to extend its opening hours to midnight!

Jo McLaughlin October 2020

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