Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Art of Ancient China

What was the purpose of Emperor Qin’s terra-cotta army?

Accidentally discovered in 1974 in Lintong, China, the massive burial monument for Emperor Quin Shi Huang contains over seven thousand life-size terra-cotta soldiers and horses, all standing in formation. Each solider was painted and assembled from a series of molded parts, and therefore has a surprisingly realistic and individualized look. The burial chamber is as large and grand as the Emperor’s palace while he was alive, and is part of an ancient Chinese tradition of burying rulers with the wealth (and the living staff) they possessed during their life, much like the ancient Egyptians. The terra-cotta army protects the emperor and his material goods in perpetuity, serving their leader even after his death.


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