Constructed in the third century BC, the Terracotta Army is a collection of clay sculptures depicting the forces of the First Emperor of China – Qin Shi Huang. Discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong County, Shaanxi, the figures include more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses built as protection for the Emperor in the afterlife. Their varying clothes, facial features and body types have long stunned archaeologists, considering they were created more than 2,000 years ago.
But historian Dan Snow revealed during his BBC series “The Greatest Tomb on Earth” why a new theory could “force us to rewrite history”.
He said in 2016: “The stunning realism amplifies the great mystery surrounding these figures, where do they come from?
“They are nothing like any figure made in China before them, something changed.
“The big question is how did Chinese craftsmen achieve such an incredible transformation?
Well that forces us to completely rewrite the history books
“It’s like going from a stickman to a Leonardo in a single step, something remarkable happened here 2,200 years ago.
“To understand quite how remarkable, I need to put it in a global context.”
Mr Snow explained to viewers how historians have long-believed Ancient China remained secluded from the rest of the world.
But the Terracotta Army could shatter that theory.
He added: “The world at the time of the First Emperor, around 220BC.
“On the eastern edge of the Eurasian landmass, you’ve got the Chinese worlds, a competing cluster of mini-states over there.
“Over on the west of Eurasia, you’ve got the Roman Empire starting to expand over here and you’ve got Greece over there.
“Now, what’s going on artistically in the East and West is very different in the third-century.
“This is classic Greek art, the absolute high watermark of artistic expression, beautiful – metre-and-a-half tall, intricately painted, human in its look.
“But over here in the Chinese world, you’ve got just 10cm tall, far more basic.”
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Mr Snow revealed how something happened that completely changed the Chinese approach to art.
He continued: “Then something changes, in fact, everything changes – there’s a revolution.
“Suddenly, in 220BC you get the Terracotta Warriors lightyears ahead of what’s gone before.
“It starts to look far less like its predecessor and far more like what’s going on in the western world, both life-size, both lifelike, both attempts at realism.
“This couldn’t be more important, because it’s always been assumed that China developed in isolation.
“But if that’s not the case, if the First Emperor of China imported western ideas and techniques to create his extraordinary necropolis, well that forces us to completely rewrite the history books.”
Some scholars argue that a potential Greek influence is particularly evident in some terracotta figures such as those of acrobats, combined with findings of European DNA in Xinjiang and rare bronze artefacts made with a lost-wax technique known in Greece and Egypt.
However, this idea is disputed by others who claim that there is “no substantial evidence at all” for contact between ancient Greeks and Chinese builders of the tomb.
They argue that such speculations rest on flawed and old “Eurocentric” ideas that assumed other civilisations were incapable of sophisticated artistry and thus foreign artistry must be seen through western traditions.
More research is needed to confirm or deny the link.
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