- What is Chinese tomb art? Compare two terracotta figures from the Qin dynasty.
Chinese tomb art was started with the belief of an after life and that early rulers has to be provided even after they pass, similarly like an extension of their worldly life. The most prominent example of this was set in the Qin dynasty which was reigned by Emperor Qin Shi Huang where he ordered the reproduction of thousands of terracotta figures in preparation for his grave. The figures mainly resemble soldiers and that in one of the discovered pits, pit no. 1, it contains more than 6000 figures of warriors and horses. Narrowing on the terracotta who were archers, you would notice that the ones who were kneeling were armoured while the ones standing were not. One would wonder, why would the Emperor have some protected and some not. Wouldn’t it to be logical to have all of them decked in armour, or was it to mimic as closely towards real life to heighten the reality of an after life?
The material of each terracotta figure were made differently to represent and accentuate their different roles as Emperor Qin’s warriors. The standing archers were dressed in a robe-like texture which was emphasised with the creases and folds on it. The fact that they are standing further stresses that they are in need to be moving around and thus have material that would be “allowed for speed and maneuverability”1 for close fighting. In contrast, the kneeling archer were dressed in a scale-like armour which appears to be of a harder material based on the straight and non malleable texture. This again based on the way they are position, kneeling down, you can deduce that they were meant to be at a stagnant position when in need of battle and thus does not have the necessity to wear materials that require for better movement. Looking at the different armour and materials that were decided for each individual role, you can tell that they were genuinely mirrored and represented as soldiers that are in a real combat, they “were not fancy but were efficient”2.
The sizes were made in exact ratio for the terracotta army. For both the standing and kneeling archer, they were seen to have sizes that replicate to the size of a human, the standing being approximately 178cm, while the kneeling 122cm. From this you can notice that they are created in a way that it is mathematically correct and that if the standing terracotta were to be bended in the same way as the kneeling, they would have roughly the same height. Looking into this, it again emphasis on how they are created in a way that realness was put into emphasis. The efficiency of the terracotta working in the after life and it being replicated as closely to real life must have been a real concern for Qin Shi Huang.3
1 Ledderose, Lothar. Ten thousand things: module and mass production in Chinese art (Princeton University Press, 2000), 53.
2 Ledderose, Lothar. Ten thousand things: module and mass production in Chinese art (Princeton University Press, 2000), 64.
2 Ledderose, Lothar. Ten thousand things: module and mass production in Chinese art (Princeton University Press, 2000), 68.