One Nation Army


Anyone who knows me is aware of my epic love affair with the Terracotta Warriors (not to be mistaken for my tragic love affair with the Cat Returns). I even sat through the entirety of The Film That Shall Not Be Named—known in some territories as The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor or One of the Lowest Points in Jet-Li’s Career—which is a level of dedication that I, myself, did not know I possessed. So of course, there was absolutely no way that I could begin with any other work when I decided to start an “Art of the Week” segment on our blog. Thus—even though I have already spoken briefly on them while recounting my wild night out at the Met—let us begin our foray into the wondrous world of art!

On a perfectly average day in 1974, Chinese farmers (who are still often referred to simply as “Chinese farmers” despite their accidental but momentous contribution to the field of archeology) tripped over one of the most important historical finds in recent history: The Terracotta Army. Dating back to the Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE)—the first imperial dynasty of unified China and the origins of the English name for the country—the Terracotta Army is part of a massive funerary complex dedicated to the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. The Army is composed of thousands of warriors—decked out in full armor and carrying weapons—as well as their horses and chariots. The consensus is that Qin Shi Huang had a life-sized replica of his army sculpted out of terracotta to guard him in the afterlife, which is supported by in the uniqueness of each warrior. Although the body-types seem to repeat, the heads themselves are individualized portraits (even the horses appear to have a distinct identity).

The funeral complex itself is the largest in the world, covering more area than the largest of the Great Pyramids. Qin Shi Huang’s burial chamber is underground, located beneath a large mound of earth. We do not know for sure what the chamber looks like as archeologists have purposely left it unexcavated, but descriptions in contemporary texts have painted a rather lavish image (apparently, his coffin rests in the center of a map of his entire domain and there are mercury streams running throughout the tomb to imitate local rivers, which is a level of extra I aspire to be). The burial complex was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and (most of it) is open to the public. I definitely plan to visit before I die, if only to get a few pointers on how to go out in style.

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About the Author

Tierra Holmes is a senior studying Art History and History at UNCC. When she isn’t chained to her computer working on research projects, she enjoys marathoning Korean dramas and spending money she doesn’t have. After graduation, she hopes to curate a museum or gallery and possibly guest-star on Mysteries at the Museum.