Famed Terracotta Warriors on display in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province. (CFP Photo)
Recently published findings have put the origin of China’s famous Terracotta Warriors into question. Considered an “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the army of thousands of hand crafted life-size soldiers has longed thought to have been constructed as Emperor Qin Shihuang’s (259-210BC) guardians for the afterlife. However, historian and architect Chen Jingyuan believes that Qin’s ancestor, Empress Xuan (?-265BC), who died 55 years before Qin, was in fact the mastermind behind the army.
Chen’s book, TheTruth of Terracotta Warriors, outlines 63 examples illustrating his belief.
“For instance, the distance between the Terracotta Warriors and the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuang is as long as 1.5 kilometers and the distance between the centers of the two places is even further. It is strange that the funeral objects are so far away from the mausoleum,” Chen told the Global Times.
He explained that besides this, details of the warriors, such as the unique hair knots on one side of their heads, their colorful clothes and the various wheelbases of the chariots put the current time frame in doubt.
“The hairstyle, the ancient Chinese characters found on some unearthed warriors and other evidence indicate the owner of the warriors was Empress Xuan,” Chen said.
In Chen’s point of view the hairstyle of the warrior’s is the same as the Chu minority, the ethnicity of the Empress. Chen said if Emperor Qin had designed the army, they would be dressed in Han style. The clothes of the warriors are also important, Chen explained. He said that the warriors were painted in many different colors, which is in stark contrast to the black-clothed soldiers of the Qin Dynasty.
Chen added that small details such as the wheels on the chariots indicate that they are not war chariots, but ones for everyday use.
“Empress Xuan, the so called ‘Empress Dowager Cixi of ancient times,’ was once one of the most powerful woman in China’s history. During her reign, the Qin State was thriving and flourishing. This prosperity of the State meant that this powerful women had enough money to conduct such a huge project,” Chen explained.
Despite Chen’s convictions, few agree with his stance.
“There are three strong pieces of evidence indicating that the warrior’s owner was Emperor Qin Shihuang. First, the pit of the warriors is within the territory of Emperor Qin’s mausoleum. Second, the weapons are inscribed with the words ‘Lu Buwei’ (the prime minister of the Qin Dynasty). Third, the architectural style and the earth analysis show that the warriors share the same characteristics as the Stone Armor Pit and Bronze Chariot and Horse Pit, which are verified parts of the mausoleum,” Liu Zhancheng, head of the Terracotta Warrior’s archaeological team told the Global Times.
“According to the material collection and relics analysis, the area of the entire mausoleum is as large as 56.25 square kilometers and the pit of the warriors is within this territory. What’s more, as parts of the mausoleum, many other verified Qin Dynasty funeral object pits are also a comparative long distance away from the mausoleum. Therefore, there is nothing unusual about the location of the warrior pits,” Liu added.
As for the clothing, Liu explained that, “In the Qin Dynasty, black was a superior color. The Qin people wore black during grand occasions, such as sacrificial ceremonies, but there was no need for people to wear black all the time.”
However, Yuan Zhongyi, a member of the first Chinese archeological team to excavate the Terracotta Army in 1974 and former director of the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors said, “The question of the real owner of the warriors has been debated since the very beginning. The conclusion that the warriors were the funeral objects of Emperor Qin was made by a group of scholars and it has been widely accepted at home and abroad.”
With the latest excavation of Warrior Pit No.1 in June, their origin and Chen’s conclusion has sparked further debate amongst historians.
According to Liu Jiusheng, a teacher at Shannxi Normal University, taking terracotta warriors as funeral objects violates the concept that Chinese people favor a peaceful afterlife. In his opinion, the warriors and horses in Terracotta Pit No.1 do not depict armed forces, but present a real-life scene of a magnificent ceremony to celebrate the journey of Emperor Qin Shihuang.
“The discussion of multiple perspectives and different angles of the origin of the warriors is important. With the development of further excavation and future study by scientists, the identity of the warriors will become clear,” said Zhao Shichao, vice chairman of the Chinese Association of Pre-Qin History.
The debate among scholars is unlikely to dampen the public’s enthusiasm for the warriors. Each year the unearthed pits in Xi’an attract over 3 million international and domestic tourists.
“As an Eighth Wonder of the World and one of the most important archeological finds of the 20th century, whether the Warriors’ creator was Emperor Qin or somebody else, the army will always enjoy special status and its great achievement cannot be denied,” said Jerry Zhang, a history lover from Beijing.
Source: Global Times