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Terra Cotta Warriors March Through Washington

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Terra Cotta Warriors March Through Washington

History

Terra Cotta Warriors March Through Washington

Terra Cotta Warriors March Through Washington

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  • Back in 221 B.C., China's first emperor wanted to make sure he was well-protected in the afterlife.  So he created an army to accompany him to his tomb. An army of 7,000 warriors –- made completely of terra cotta.
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    Back in 221 B.C., China's first emperor wanted to make sure he was well-protected in the afterlife. So he created an army to accompany him to his tomb. An army of 7,000 warriors –- made completely of terra cotta.
    O. Louis Mazzatenta/National Geographic/
  • It's a monument to a man who clearly considered himself worth the effort. In his lifetime, Emperor Qin Shihuangdi conquered all of the warring states and united the region into what we now know as China. He standardized written script, currency and measurements, and built a network of roads.
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    It's a monument to a man who clearly considered himself worth the effort. In his lifetime, Emperor Qin Shihuangdi conquered all of the warring states and united the region into what we now know as China. He standardized written script, currency and measurements, and built a network of roads.
    O. Louis Mazzatenta/National Geographic/
  • Fifteen of his soldiers, life-sized and ready for battle, are part of the largest exhibition of the terra cotta figures ever to tour the U.S. There are also weapons, animals, coins and other items from the emperor's burial site.
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    Fifteen of his soldiers, life-sized and ready for battle, are part of the largest exhibition of the terra cotta figures ever to tour the U.S. There are also weapons, animals, coins and other items from the emperor's burial site.
    O. Louis Mazzatenta/National Geographic/
  • Curator Al Dien remembers the moment he saw his first terra cotta warrior, in China in 1977. "As we rounded a corner, there was, on display, the kneeling archer," he says. "I was so excited that the people accompanying us insisted I sit down. They thought I was going to have some sort of heart attack."
    Hide caption
    Curator Al Dien remembers the moment he saw his first terra cotta warrior, in China in 1977. "As we rounded a corner, there was, on display, the kneeling archer," he says. "I was so excited that the people accompanying us insisted I sit down. They thought I was going to have some sort of heart attack."
    Wang Da Gang/National Geographic/
  • Each warrior is unique.  Experts believe the faces of the figures may have been modeled on the artists' own faces, or perhaps the faces of actual soldiers.
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    Each warrior is unique. Experts believe the faces of the figures may have been modeled on the artists' own faces, or perhaps the faces of actual soldiers.
    Wang Da Gang/National Geographic/
  • The burial site was discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers in central China who were digging a well.
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    The burial site was discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers in central China who were digging a well.
    Wang Da Gang/National Geographic/
  • "There are over 7,000 figures," Dien says. Before the discovery of the army, the only burial figures that had been found were small and rather crude. "This kind of life-size, realistic portrayals, down to the fingernails — even the strands of hair on the head are depicted — where did that come from?"
    Hide caption
    "There are over 7,000 figures," Dien says. Before the discovery of the army, the only burial figures that had been found were small and rather crude. "This kind of life-size, realistic portrayals, down to the fingernails — even the strands of hair on the head are depicted — where did that come from?"
    Wang Da Gang/National Geographic/
  • "It was a creation out of nothing like it before," Dien continues. "There was no line of development — say, as you had in Greece, with sculpture over centuries before the great statues were made. Here, it was something that was done almost on the spot."
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    "It was a creation out of nothing like it before," Dien continues. "There was no line of development — say, as you had in Greece, with sculpture over centuries before the great statues were made. Here, it was something that was done almost on the spot."
    Wang Da Gang/National Geographic/
  • The tour's last stop in the U.S. is the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. Museum director Susan Norton marvels at the extraordinary effort it took to build the army. "I don't really think we can imagine having 700,000 people work on a project." That's how many workers it took to build the tomb, experts believe.
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    The tour's last stop in the U.S. is the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. Museum director Susan Norton marvels at the extraordinary effort it took to build the army. "I don't really think we can imagine having 700,000 people work on a project." That's how many workers it took to build the tomb, experts believe.
    Wang Da Gang/National Geographic/
  • "Think about life-size horses being put into kilns — of that size, of that weight," Dien says. "Just really incredible."
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    "Think about life-size horses being put into kilns — of that size, of that weight," Dien says. "Just really incredible."
    Wang Da Gang/National Geographic/

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