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  The Terra-Cotta Warriors Museum


In 1974 local farmers digging a well near present-day Xi’an 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 8,000 clay warriors and horses has been buried in 210BCE as a ‘spirit army ‘ to stand watch over the body of the First Emperor, and had been lying hidden for over two millennia. The museum consists of 3 main buildings named Pit1, Pit2 and Pit3 which were constructed on their original sites in different periods of time. Inside the pits, you will find the bare hand soldier, the military officer, cavalrymen, archers and horses standing in battle formation. The army is stunningly well preserved and no two warriors are alike. The archers have bodies and limbs positioned in strict accordance with an ancient book named “ The Art of War”.

The army is a fitting guard for one of China greatest and most controversial figures. From his base in the state of Qin, the First Emperor conquered all rivals, unifying them into a single nation and defending it with Great Wall. An inspired and ruthless ruler, he was also beset by paranoia and a desire to dominate in the afterlife, as he had in this world. Around his giant tome-mound, as yet unopened, but bronze chariots, bronze water-birds, entertainers and Deer horns by archaeological workers.

The Emperor had started to make elaborate plans for his death in 246BC., the same year that he was beginning his drive to imperial power .Some 700,000 conscripts worked for 36 years buildings his mausoleum and making funerary objects to adorn it. According to the great Chinese historian Sima Qian (136BC-85BC), an entire fantastic palace lay beneath the massive mound, the earth for which had been mined from an area near the Wei River.

Spectacular Colourful Terra-Cotta Warriors


 

 The Colorful Costumes of the warriors

According to the “Excavation Report of the first pit of the Qinshi Huang Mausoleum”, the statistical survey summarized two major characteristics of the costumes of the warriors:
        First, the warriors’ clothing consisted of colors like vermillion, dark red, light green, sky blue, and light purple etc. Vermillion and light green were the most commonly used colors. Moreover, their pants were in vermillion, light green, light blue, light purple or white. Vermillion and light green were also the most commonly used colors for the trousers. Other parts of the costume included light green, light purple, sky blue or vermillion lower leg protection; reddish brown , vermillion and light green boots; reddish brown shoes; vermillion shoelaces; reddish brown crowns, vermillion or reddish orange hair band, brownish black belts, black armors and h vermillion strings tying the armor pieces together. The generals and the soldiers wore the same color of armors. Besides, detailed geometric patterns along the back of the armors were found. From the descriptions above, we can proof that red and green are major colors used for the costumes of Qin warriors. The color of the collar and cuff edges formed a strong contrast with the color of the clothing. For instance, if the clothing would be in red, the collar and cuff edge would be in the light green. If the clothing would be in light green, the edges would be in vermillion or light purple. The combinations of color between the top and the trousers were also full of contrast with combinations like vermillion top with light green or sky blue trousers or light green top with vermillion or light purple pants. These combination fully highlighted the beautiful colors of that time.
           Second, the costumes of the lower ranked soldiers and higher hierarchical general do not differ scientifically. The production of the terracotta warriors aimed at imitating the reality. Hence, their clothing mirrored the real situation at that time and explained that there were not hierarchical difference and restrictions in terms of their dress code. The archaeological finding a letter written by a Qin soldier unearthed from the fourth Qin tomb of Shuihudi in Yunmeng county, Hei province, clearly stated that his mother made his clothing for him. Therefore, the costumes of the Qin soldiers were prepared by the individuals themselves, which were not unified and were not much different from the clothing worn by the commoners. In another word, there was no uniforms or unified colors in the Qin arm and that the soldier’s clothing should correspond to the way of the life of the Qin dynasty. Also a bamboo slip on legal cases dates back to the Qin Dynasty called Fengzhenshi mentioned a man wearing some clothing in ti color. Ti refer to reddish orange. It showed that even comers could wear red in the Qin dynasty. The color of red and yellow were not only for the royal or nobles. The Qin dynasty was only at the early stage of feudalism when slavery was replaced, consequently, the hierarchy of feudalism was not completely developed and there was not straight restriction with clothing and color.

 The Faded Color

Owing to the mineral nature of the colors as well as the historical and natural disasters ( fire, landslide, flooding) that the pits faced, most of the polycromy fell off. Only very small parts of polycromy remained on layer and the pottery body. Consequently, the color layer peeled off. In contrast, the cohesive force between the polycromy and soil around was relatively strong and stable. So, the polycromy had a tendency to stick to the soil sediments around it. Thus, polycromy deterioration took place in the course of the excavation of the terracotta figures, with most of the polychromy gluing to the earth around.

The Polychrome layers

 The study found out that the polychromy of the most terracotta warriors were comprised of lacquer layer and pigment layer. Yes, only very few consist of single lacquer layer. For instance the armors of the warriors body, the hair or the shoes. Some applied only one layer of around 0.01-0.04mm thick, while some with two layers. As for pigment layers, usually only one layer would be applied and that is about 0.09-0.20mm thick, pink is the thickest whilst red is the thinnest between 0.01-0.04mm. There are also some rare example of applying two pigments at the same time, for example the flesh color, nails and some decorations.
           From the analysis of color pigments used in the color layers, the terracotta warriors consist of single color layer, such as red layer by cinnabar, blue layer by azurite, green layer by malachite, but there are also colors that are mixed by two color pigments like purple made up of cinnabar and Chinese Purple, some light purple with some extra lead white, and pink is a mixture of bone white and cinnabar with some lead white in some cease.
          It is undoubted that aged binding material loosened the texture of the color layer. In 2006, presently there are two main conclusions about study on the remains of the cementing material, one is egg and another one is Animal glue.( i.e Bone glue and hide glue). It is an academic difficult problem about the analysis and identity of cementing material because of aged cementing material loosened.  

The Process of Coloring

All the warriors were colored with brushed as the traces of the brushes can still be found. The process of coloring is as follows: first use the putty to smoothen the surface of the pottery and fill the crack. Since all the terracotta warriors were already polished and smoothed as molds. They remained very smooth after being baked, not all of them needed to be smoothened again with putty but only those who were still rough. Second, paint a layer of lacquer on the pottery or putty surface. Third, mix the colors and apply onto the layer. Fourthly, draw the detailed parts such as the eye browns and beard. The larger areas were painted with brush were more than 10c.m, but for the detailed part like hair and decorations, smaller brushes were used. The use of rulers has been traced. The complicated dedicated drawing technique reflected the extraordinary skill of that time.

The Revival of Ancient Glory

Since the discovery of the terracotta warriors, the conservation research on the figures has been going on. In order to develop the technology on color restoration more systematically, the Qishihuang Mausoleum site Museum established a project group in 1987 and cooperated with Bavarian state Development of Historical Monuments, Munich, Germany. After years of hard work, the component of the organic layer. Based on these studies, the research group had adopted two different sets of conservation works including PEG and PU, and Monomer penetration—Electron beam radiation polymerization, which were proved to be successful in preserving the newly excavated terracotta warriors polychromy effectively. The methods not only enable to polychromy preservation on the warriors, but also provide technical support to other lacquer related cultural relics. The technology is now widely promoted to other polychromy pottery objects.

 
 
 

 

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