The Terracotta Army
In 1974 local farmers digging a well in the village of Lintong, near the ancient capital of Xian, unearthed parts of clay figures, opening the way to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. The Terracotta Army was a total surprise. The 6.000 life-size clay warriors and horses had been buried in 210 BC as a ‘spirit army’ to guard the body of the First Emperor, and had been lying hidden and forgotten for over 2,000 years.
The army stands watch over one of China’s greatest and most controversial rulers. From his base in the state of Qin, the First Emperor conquered all rivals, forcing them into a single nation, and defending it with the first Great Wall. An inspired and ruthless ruler, he was also beset by a desire to dominate in death, as he did in life. Around his vast tomb-mound, as yet unopened, pits and chambers conceal a whole spirit world: the soldiers themselves, and also officials, bronze chariots, water-birds and entertainers. Much of this now stands revealed in a site that attracts some two million visitors a year. Perhaps more remains to be discovered.
Writing The Terracotta Army combined privilege with pleasure. Few subjects can offer such a mix of history, adventure, politics, art, archaeology, and sights to induce permanent jaw-drop. Let alone the real warriors – there is an industry of replica-makers. The result has revolutionized the region. Little Lintong, with its orchards of persimmons, is now a place of grand hotels and a university.
If you can't make it to China anytime soon to see the warriors, do the next best thing: Grab a warm cup of tea, sink into your favorite reading spot and open The Terracotta Army
As exciting an accounting of history as it gets! ... John Man has a way of making history seem like a novel
Two of the best chapters address the time, materials and labor required… Man is an engaging guide whose thoughtful observations make real contributions