New evidence suggests that ancient Greeks helped design China’s Terracotta Army of clay soldiers, proving the existence of a link between China and ancient western civilization.

The Terracotta Army is comprised of 8,000 warriors guarding the tomb of China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huang, who ruled between 247 and 220 BC. Researchers have suggested that Greek sculptors participated in the design of the soldiers. They assured that Greek sculptors must have been in contact with the First Emperor’s workers to instruct them on how to build the sculptures.

Terracotta Army
Detail of Terracotta Army Face. Image credit: Wikimedia.

Greek influence can also be seen in bronze figures present in the Emperor’s tomb, which had to be manufactured through methods previously unknown in China, and mastered by Egyptian and Greek sculptors.

One of the largest mortuary monuments in history

Apparently, Emperor Qin Shi Huang took inspiration from Greek statues that started appearing in the mainland after the military campaigns of Alexander the Great during the fourth century. If the Greeks lent a hand in the design of the Terracotta Army, then it would prove that the Silk Road between China and the west was used before it was opened officially in the second century, before Marco Polo’s expedition.

It appears that the First Emperor had to obtain ideas from the outside as realistic human sculptures were not common in second-century China. This becomes more prominent of an evidence seeing that thousands of sculpted soldiers were erected at the same location in the same time period.

Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army. Image credit: Wikipedia.

It was also discovered that the tomb is much larger than initially thought, as its apparent size went from 22 to 38 square miles. Corridors and subsections of the tomb were discovered, alongside burial and living chambers for concubines, and even a passageway over 200 foot wide.

Professor Lukas Nickel from the University of Vienna led the research and assured that even documented evidence claiming that Emperor Qin Shi Huang copied sculpted figures that were seen in the western regions of China.

“The massive employment of sculpture in the mausoleum is totally unprecedented in Chinese tradition. This makes it likely that the skills necessary came not from China but from the outside,” stated Professor Nickel to Fox News.

The mythical First Emperor of China

The Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974, and it features an intricate design directly influenced by military prowess, where the tallest statues are the generals and the lower ones are the foot soldiers. The whole array of sculptures includes at least 8,000 soldiers, 520 horses, and 130 chariots. There are also musicians and acrobats depicted in the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

The First Emperor’s tomb is comprised of four pits which have been excavated 23 feet deep. The soldiers lie in the eastern portion of the tomb, facing the direction of the states conquered by the First Emperor.

Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army chariot. Image credit:

The many parts of the sculptures were manufactured separately and then joined into one single piece. The necropolis is a sample of ancient assembly line production, as the pieces were labeled with the workshop’s name to supervise quality control. Surveying the figures shows that they were originally painted, including the figures’ faces.

There were at least six facial molds employed in the constructing of the soldiers’ faces, and the detail is such, that even differences in each statue’s hair style are noticeable.

In the mortuary complex, there’s also the burial site of workers and craftsmen, including chained criminals, since it appears that thousands died in the 30 years that it took to complete the necropolis.

Chinese historians remarked that the tomb needed at least 700,000 workers to be built. The location of the tomb is known for its jade and gold veins, which is why the First Emperor of China chose it as his final resting place.

The tomb resembles Qin Shi Huang’s palace, including stables, halls and even a park around the tomb. The First Emperor managed to unite China’s kingdoms into a single empire, putting feudalism to an end and also building the Great Wall of China. The First Qin Emperor is known to have died in 210 after he dedicated his final years searching for the elixir of eternal life.

After the First Emperor died in Shaqiu, his Prime Minister Li Si decided to hide the event to avoid an uprising, as they were located at least two months away from the capital. As the royal carriage passed by, Li Si made it so it was accompanied by carts with rotting fish, as a way to disguise the stench from the emperor’s corpse.

The emperor never wrote a will and his son Fusu was expected to step up to the throne. But Li Si and conspiring eunuch Zhao Ghao forged a letter saying that Fusu and Qing’s highest ranking commander General Meng had to commit suicide.

Because of the fierce devotion that the emperor had on his empire, the plan succeeded, which led to Huhai, Qin Shi Huang’s younger son, to sit on the throne as a puppet of Li Si and Zhao Ghao.

Source: National Geographic