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360º Panoramic tours of the exhibition held in Malta at the National Museum of Archaeology between March to July 2007 Produced by Martin Micallef with still images by John Testa

In collaboration with

 

The Exhibition

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Heritage Malta hosted a prestigious exhibition of a selection of artefacts from the the Chinese terracotta army at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta from 1st  March to 31st July 2007.


The exhibition ‘Silent Warriors – The Chinese Terracotta Soldiers’ was organised by Heritage Malta and Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau in collaboration with the Malta Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Malta Embassy for the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Cultural Centre in Malta. The exhibition was supported by Emirates, Malta Tourism Authority and Vodafone Malta Foundation.


The exhibition consisted of 81 original artefacts, including 10 terracotta soldiers, 2 horses and a number of bronze and pottery cooking utensils, personal ornaments, weapons, coins, terracotta animals and other artefacts excavated in the last 30 years.

 

                          

 


The army of 7,000 Chinese terracotta soldiers is one of most sensational archaeological finds of all times and one of the great wonders of the world. Like the Megalithic Temples of Malta, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum and Valletta, the Mausoleum of the First Chinese Emperor is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.


The collection of life-size terracotta figures of warriors and horses located near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor were meant to accompany their emperor after death. The life-size soldiers stand ready for battle, complete with armour and chariots. After having guarded their emperor for 2,200 years, the terracotta army was discovered accidentally by some farmers in 1974 while digging for a new well. Completely unaware as to the magnitude of their discovery, the find immediately caught the attention of archaeologists, who have been working on the site ever since. Today nearly two million people visit the site annually.

 

Emperor Qin’s City of Death


Qin Shi Huang’s real name was Ying Zheng. Born in 260 BC, he ascended to the throne at the tender age of thirteen. He was a phenomenal leader and his short reign is a landmark in Chinese millennial history.

 

At the age of 39 he united the six warring Chinese states into one nation for the first time, and renamed himself Qin Shi Huang (First Emperor of Qin – the name from which China is derived). He took political, economical and cultural measures to build the new empire, including the building of defence ramparts to form what later became known as the first Great Wall of China. He kept control through a series of inspection tours to the far-flung corners of his domain. Qin Shi Huang died aged 50 during one of his inspections in 210 BC. As a consequence of his severe rule over the people, a nation-wide peasant rebellion broke out leading to the downfall of Qin Empire only 15 years after its establishment. His reign was short, but it left an indelible mark on Chinese history.


The construction of the tomb of Qin Shi Huang was started immediately after he acceded to the throne in 246 BC. Mount Lishan, the name of the necropolis which hosts his tomb, took nearly 40 years to complete. The complex was so large that it was referred to as ‘The City of Death’. Qin Shi Huang was buried inside this complex, which was meant to serve as an after-life imperial palace.


The outer wall of the mausoleum precinct is approximately two kilometres long and one kilometre wide, and includes offices, halls, chambers, administrative buildings, stables, pits of rare animals and accessory tombs. The heart of the complex was the 500 x 500 metre tomb for the emperor, which is enclosed by two protective walls with gates, each having a watch tower.


The tomb of the emperor has not been found yet but speculations as to the rich content of the tomb abound. A description of his burial recounts how Qin Shi Huang was buried alongside great amounts of treasure and objects of craftsmanship, as well as a scale replica of the universe complete with gemmed ceilings representing the cosmos, and flowing mercury representing water. It was only fitting, therefore, to have this compound protected for eternity by the massive terracotta army interred nearby.

 

The Terracotta Army


The terracotta soldiers were found in three separate underground pits which had been excavated, supported with pillars and beams and paved with bricks (as can be seen in the model below). The first pit is the largest and is believed to hold over 5,000 soldiers, and 180 chariots and horses. This was probably representative of the First Emperor’s main army. The second pit contains about 1,400 soldiers and hundreds of horses in a U-shaped layout of chariots, cavalry and infantry in battle formation.

 


In the third pit, figures were found facing each other, suggesting that this was meant to contain the command unit of the Qin terracotta army, comprising high ranking officers, lesser officers, and a battle chariot drawn by four horses.

 

 

It is estimated that the pits include 7,000 soldiers (from infantry to generals), and hundreds of chariots and cavalry horses. Only about 1,000 soldiers and the remnants of 21 chariots have been excavated so far.

 

None of the soldiers composing the terracotta army look alike; each has a distinctive individual expression and hairstyle, possibly resembling the actual soldiers. Some are biting their lips, a number are looking around, others show troubled looks, while generals, with their hand at the tip of a sword, hold a dignified bearing.

 


The terracotta soldiers wore different armour according to their military rank: senior military officers, chariot drivers, cavalrymen, rank and file. Great importance was attached to hairstyle and headwear, which could be of various styles and shapes. Round and flat hair buns were the most common. Headwear also indicated social status.

Generals had the most complicated ornaments, which grew simpler according to the rank of the soldiers. Men also paid much attention to their beards which they kept in a variety of styles. Originally all soldiers were colourfully painted. Robes were in green, scarlet, pink, purple, or blue.

Most of trousers were painted blue, while shoes were generally red. The face and hands were in pink. The reproduction on the left shows how the warriors looked 2000 years ago when they were freshly painted.

 

The Chinese sought solutions to the mystery of death by contemplating life. They identified the end of human experience on earth with an afterlife existence parallel to that of the living. Death, therefore, was not the end of a voyage, but a passage to another natural condition. For these reasons, the dead had to be supplied with all personal requirements which they would have needed while living in order to continue with their voyage in their new life. That is why everyday objects such as cooking pots, domestic utensils, and toiletries were buried with the dead. Life could thus continue symbolically.

 

The excavation site today

 

The terracotta figures have suffered destruction caused both by human as well as by natural forces. Shortly after construction, water leaked into the pits. Besides, soon after the end of the Qin dynasty, soldiers pertaining to the emperor’s opponent General Xiang Yu set fire to the wooden structures which originally housed the terracotta army and looted the pits.

As a consequence, the terracotta figures and horses were in fragments upon excavation. Moreover, the fragile nature of the terracotta in itself presents complicated problems of preservation. Some excavated materials still retain traces of their original colouring but most of the coloured painting on terracotta figures and horses peel off when they are exposed to the air.

 

Archaeologists and conservators take great pains to restore these precious cultural artefacts. All fragments are carefully cleaned, analysed and documented to find how they relate to each other according to their location, shape, colour and quality until they form one whole.

 

 

Archaeologists begin their work by laying out a grid over the entire site before starting to dig. The grid is used to identify where objects are found during the excavation, as can be seen in the model, above.

 

Those who still retain their original colours are displayed in a controlled temperature and humidity environment since even the variations caused by the large number of visitors can cause damage to these highly sensitive artefacts.


It was a privilege for Heritage Malta to bring to Malta a part of this collection to be admired by Maltese and foreigners alike.


The exhibition ‘Silent Warriors – The Chinese Terracotta Soldiers’ was open till the 31st July 2007 at the National Museum of Archaeology, Republic Street, Valletta (tel: 21221623).

 

 

Acknowledgements:

The producer, Martin Micallef, and the stills photographer, John Testa, would like to thank the exhibition copyright holders, Heritage Malta and Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau for allowing them to photograph the exhibition to set up this website.

 

 

Produced by Martin Micallef and John Testa in collaboration with Heritage Malta.

No parts of the website may be reproduced without the written consent of the copyright holders

www.maltapanoramas.com (08/2007)