Another amazing exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts!
When Ying Zheng was laid to rest in 210 BC, he was accompanied into the afterlife by an army of nearly 8,000 life-size clay soldiers, horses, chariots, organized into battle formation and equipped with a full arsenal of weapons.
Ying Zheng ordered the construction of his mausoleum complex and military entourage shortly after he became king of the Qin state in 246 BC. In only eleven years as emperor, he brought about significant political and cultural reforms, unified the nation, and reshaped Chinese national identity in ways that have resonated for 2,200 years.
This was the only (stated) replica in the exhibit.
Finally, the army!
Offering a glimpse into ancient China’s firm belief in the afterlife, this section of the exhibit displayed life-size terracotta figures and other objects excavated from the First Emperor’s mausoleum complex. Some figures stand over six feet tall and weigh more than 400 pounds. Stone armor, bronze weapons, and a bronze goose accompany these large-scale sculptures that depict the First Emperor’s soldiers, officials, and servants.
More than 700,000 workers constructed the mausoleum complex over 38 years of Ying Zheng’s reign as both king and emperor. The First Emperor’s mausoleum complex (which sits at the foot of Mount Li, near Xi’an) is a necropolis, or a large cemetery of an ancient city, and measures approximately 38 square miles (more than half the size of the City of Richmond) in its entirety. The complex includes the tomb mound, ritual structures, a palace, an armory, an entertainment arena, stables, and a garden pond, as well as three pits containing the terracotta army figures. To date, it is estimated that only 20 percent of the buried figures have been excavated.
These objects not only represent furnishings and amenities for the afterlife but also show the artistry of ancient Chinese craftsmen.
Today, the First Emperor’s tomb mound remains undisturbed, and its contents are a mystery.