Museum of Qin Shi Huang’s Buried Sculpture Legion

Perhaps you would be interested to know how soldiers were organized for battle in China more than two thousand years ago. The Museum of Qin Shi Huang’s Buried Sculpture Legion some thirty kilometers east of Xi’an capital of Shaanxi (Shen si)Province, tells the story. The museum includes the three underground vaults so far excavated where life-size figurines of warriors and chariots were discovered. Qin Shi Huang(259-210 B. C.)was the emperor who unified China and built the Great Wall. During the period of the warring States over two millennia ago, he set out on a campaign to annex the six other ducal states to his and so founded the Qin dynasty, giving himself the title Qin Shi Huang, or the First Emperor of Qin. Devoting 36 years and conscripting seven hundred thousand laborers, he built his magnificent tomb near Xi’an, at that time the capital of China.

Today the mound still stands 76 meters high resting against the slopes of Mt Lishan and facing the Huishui River. Historical records describe the tomb magnificent underground city with inner and outer walls lined with copper. the tomb contains a throne room and seats for various officials as well as a rich treasury of jewels and other precious objects A mercury river made to flow by a mechanical device has gold ducks floating on it. The entire mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang remains to be excavated, but the three vaults containing the sculptured legion of Qin Shi Huang’s army have drawn world-wide attention.

Vault 1 was discovered when local peasants were sinking wells to fight drought in 1974. Built with and timber, it measures 210 meters long, 60 meters wide and 4.6 to 6.5 meters high. In this area of 12,600 square were found six thousand figures, life -size warriors and horses of terra cotta arranged in rectangular battle formation. The soldiers are of a fairly uniform height of 1.8 meters. They wear helmets and armor and also carry real bows and arrows, swords, lances, javelins and crossbows. The terra cotta horses are also life-size, each chariot drawn by a team of four. Three rows of seventy warriors each make up the vanguard. These are followed by the main body of the army, 38 rows of troops. There are also flank columns and rearguards. The array breathes the power of Qin Shi Huang’s army. The terra cotta figures of warriors and horses are simple in style but highly realistic and animated. The warriors are well modeled and proportioned. The heads and hands were modeled Separately and then attached. Each warrior has different features and facial expression. Uniformly strong and firm in appearance, they vary in individual aspects according to age, experience and social status. Some have brows knitted and mouths set like veteran fighters with rich experience and Wisdom; others have eyebrows arched and show the fiery boldness and impetuosity of young warriors. There are also those with sternly fixed jaw and determined eyes. Curled moustaches and a cavalier a air distinguish others. Vaults 2 and 3 containing warriors chariots and were brought to hanot8 to light in l976. Nearly a thousand pottery soldiers were found in the l.3-acre Vault 2. Compared with Vault 1 it contains a larger variety of soldiers arranged in more complex battle array. Unlike Vault 1, where the war chariots and foot soldiers are mixed, Vault 2 contains four separate units of chariots, cavalrymen, archers and foot soldiers Each unit is in square formation and the four are linked to ode another in a polygon. Again, the warriors carry real weapons. The projecting part of the polygon consists of archers with crossbows or handbows and quivers and so appears to be the vanguard of the phalanx.

The archers ale followed by a unit of cavalrymen to the left and one of chariots to the right, forming the mo wings of the phalanx. Foot soldiers and war chariots bring up the rear. Each chariot drawn by four horses has a driver and two assistants, One on either side of him. The charioteers are armored and carry spears, swords and crossbows, indicating that they could engage in long range battles, short range fighting and hand-to-hand combat. All the cavalrymen carry crossbows, demonstrating that shooting on horseback was a common practice in the army at that time.