Extract from the Guardian view original here:
G2, September 5: "This wondrous underground realm needed guarding. Three pits full of terracotta warriors stood poised to protect the First Emperor from the vengeful ghost armies of his victims. And so they stand here, in London, in front of me - the most famous clay figures in the world. And the Emperor's plans subtly turn awry. Even in an exhibition called The First Emperor, which provocatively overturns thousands of years of Chinese vilification of a man remembered as a tyrant, he is not the star of his own show. These nameless soldiers are the stars.
Archaeologists insist that none of the terracotta warriors is a "portrait". The creation of so many figures was a triumph of mass production: after assembling the figures from modules, they were given final individualising touches such as facial hair. Yet I defy you to stand in front of them and not think of them as replicas of real people, as something more intimate and alive than a portrait, even. They are personages, beings, ghosts - they live.
In the western figurative sculpture tradition that began in Greece at the same time that Confucius was alive in China, and still flourished when the First Emperor's artisans created his tomb, movement and life are evoked through observation of muscle, proportion and action. The terracotta army is the final death blow to the long-enduring belief in the uniqueness and superiority of this Greek tradition because it achieves just as much life, animation and beauty, in a totally different and unrelated way. It is hard to describe the exquisite realism and simultaneous supernatural unreality of these sculptures. They move: they kneel, they crouch, and one looks as if he is performing martial arts, though in fact he was once holding a bow. More precisely, they have the power to move: they are silently awaiting orders. Their waiting has something exquisitely noble about it: the way they smile or look grave, the way they position their hands, the way they express strength in tranquillity.
There is a quality to these men that is absolutely disarming. They contain love. Whose love? You feel it comes from them, a warmth, a compassion. You get a sense not just of a slave army obedient to its ruler's command, but of real human beings with their own memories, commitments and responsibilities. Their loyalty to the emperor might be expressed, but also their duty to family, even to country. The love that endures in this art is above all the passion of the creator. What makes it a living art, despite lying in the cold grave so long, is that anonymous artisans, employed in the production system, put their own selves, their feelings, their love of life, into these sculptures. The terracotta army is not a tribute to power. It is a people's art - you might even say, the people's revenge".
One of the most popular places to visit in China is the Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses in Xi'an, the capital city of the Shaanxi province. The terra cotta warriors have an interesting story behind their existence. Emperor Qin Shi Huang is the person responsible for this popular tourist attraction.
In 246 B. C., Emperor Qin Shi Huang became the ruler of China. Qin means beginning, and "huang" means emperor, thus Qin shi Huang called himself China's first emperor. According to Ebrey (1996), Emperor Qin had the "determination to manage every detail of his government himself"
Qin undertook tours around the country to look over his empire and subjects, building stone tablets that recorded his accomplishments. Fairbank and Reischauer (1989) state that Emperor Qin set "equal, impersonal laws and taxation to the whole land". In this way Qin established China as a unified, law abiding nations.
Views of Emperor Qin vary because he established many positive things in China, but also made some poor decisions. For instance, the idea of people being educated was scorned, so he had books burned. Alternative viewpoints argue Qin was not a bad emperor, capable after all of unifying China- no mean feat in anyone's book. To achieve this goal Qin defeated the other six Kingdoms and linked up their kingdom walls to create the first Great Wall, simultaneously establishing China's first dynasty.
In all, Qin survived three assassination attempts according to (Ebrey ibid). This created an obsession with fear of his own death. Fairbank and Reischauer state, indeed, that, " he also was obsessed with the idea of achieving physical immortality ". He heard about a " mythical land of immortality" called Peng Lai (Ebrey ibid). This land was inhabited by immortals who are able to have the "drug of immortality" ( FitzGerald 1978). He sent out groups equipped with jewels to find this island. Qin's search for immortality ultimately lead to the proof of his mortality as he travelled to the coast to supervise the groups finding the island, but ended up finding his own death. Qin died "in his camp near the seashore". His body was buried in his mausoleum near Chang'an (FizGerald ibid).
In 1974, a local farmer discovered the Qin's underground army of terra cotta warriors, while digging a well. This underground army is 1200 meters east of the outer wall of the mausoleum and 64 kilometers from Xi'an, a city in central China ( Blunden and Elvin 1983).
The terra cotta army symbolizes the power that Qin had after his death according to one local expert. Ebrey (1996) asserted that the underground army "points to both the might of the Qin military machine and the concern of the first emperor with the after life". There are a total of four underground chambers, called pits.
The first one discovered was glamorously labelled Pit 1. Pit one is the largest with over 6,000 figures in military formation. However due to inexperience of excavators, the roof caved in on the warriors in Pit 1 during the uncovering of the army, destroying many of the artefacts- many warriors had to be pieced together- however the formation remains unaffected which "…follows military prescription in contemporary texts on military strategy" according to ( Blunden and Elvin 1983). The figures were most likely to have had real weapons in their hands, but it is said that in 206 B. C. a rebel general, Xiang Yu, stole the weapons and destroyed Emperor's Qin Tomb, with fire.
Pit 2 was discovered in 1976 and thus named with logical creativity, and is located northeast of Pit 1. It is L-shaped with over 1400 chariots and cavalrymen. Almost half of the men in this pit "share a stance reminiscent of a taijiquan (tai chi) position, one of the martial arts seen practiced in China today". In pit 2, there are four distinct units: A vanguard of archers with weapon less striding infantry men; four units of cavalry and chariots; one of which was subdivided into corridors experts say.
Pit 3 was discovered in 1977, is located north of the west end of Pit 1, and represents an elite command force.
Discovery of a fourth empty pit suggests "…that the work was abandoned before completion". Indeed one scholar, packed with sharp analysis and shrewd insight, is sharp enough to suggest this is perhaps due to the sudden death of the First Emperor in 210 BC and the downfall of the dynasty".
The terra cotta army was created in a very detailed way. While the bodies are hollow, Blunden and Elvin noticed that "each figure was individually modelled with heads, arms, and bodies modelled separately and then joined with strips of clay". A rough model was made first then a thin clay piece added. These pieces are the details of the eyes, mouth, nose, and dress. The ears, beard, and armour are moulded separately and then attached to the warriors with the whole figure then fired at high temperature, while the base was pre-fired and attached later.