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5.5: Qin Dynasty (221 BCE - 206 BCE)

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  • When Emperor Qin Shi Huang united seven states and established a powerful central dynasty, the Qin Dynasty became China’s first imperial dynasty, lasting from 221 BCE to 206 BCE, a mere 15 years. The economy stabilized with standardized weights and measures, coins with a square hole in the center, and the declaration of Qinzhuan, the standard language font, generating an imperial system and form of governing controlling China until 1912 CE. Located in Lintong County just east of Xian, the emperor took extreme measures to build his mausoleum, a mound larger than the great pyramids in Egypt at 55 meters high and 2000 meters wide, constructed by over 700,000 workers. In 1974, farmers digging a well discovered some buried clay pieces, leading to the excavation of the site buried for 2,000 years. Uncovering the tomb revealed over 8,000 life-size terracotta warriors (5.21), horses, and carriages (5.22).

    5.21 Terracotta warriors
    5.22 Rear view of warriors

    The clay warriors were produced separately, and no two are alike (5.23), computer-aided facial recognition software identified the distinctiveness in each face. The warriors were assembled and grouped by rank and position and dressed in the proper uniform. How the statues constructed remains theoretical today with varying opinions; however, most researchers believe artisans used coiling clay strips to form most of the body, and the arms were attached later. Details were carved into the figure, and they were set aside to dry. The head might have been molded or made by coiling and facial definitions added before the head was attached to the body, then the entire figure was fired in a large kiln.

    5.23 Individual soldiers

    All the warriors, horses, and carriages were hand-painted (5.24), the hair and beards were black, the clothing decorated with eight different colors and multiple hues. The lacquer used to cover the paint like a hard resin, and when it dried, the lacquer formed a bright sheen. Lacquer is made from the sap of lacquer trees, and it would have taken 25 trees to cover just one warrior or 200,000 trees to cover the figures in the entire tomb. Unfortunately, most of the color on the warriors had faded to gray, sometimes caused by time, but generally, when the statues were excavated and exposed to the dry air, the colored lacquer curled and fell off. Today, The Terra Cotta Warriors are one of the most significant finds of the 20th century.

    5.24 Painted warrior
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