The Chinese Emperorsí Eternal Armies(continued)
As artwork reflects the ideals of the culture that produces it, so Jing Diís soldiers differ from Qinís, as did their environments. Like Qinís soldiers, Jing Diís figures emerged in pieces from molds, four parts for each body. Moist clay was pressed into the molds; the molds were sealed together with clay and baked. The fired clay was taken to workshops to be finished. Completed, they stood proudly at two feet in height.
The faces incised on the molds are so expressive that experts believe that artisans used fellow workers as models. Fifteen different expressions have been identified, including ones described as dreamy, dour, fiery and forthright, honest and sincere. Mysterious smiles on the clay faces reflect a new way of thinking about the afterlife. The dark underworld had become a realm of eternal happiness. Jing Di was a follower of Taoism, a belief that looks inward, seeking harmony with nature. Taoism favored tolerance, simplicity, and spontaneity, expressions conveyed in the faces of the soldiers. The faces of Qinís army have been classified into as many as 30 types but each was individually expressive, alert, intelligent, resourceful, and sincere, reflecting the personalities of ideal warriors.
Qinís army had the clothes sculpted on, then painted. Jing Diís warrior show the beauty of the nude figure beneath. Once fired, they were fitted with wooden arms that rotated at the shoulder, then painted and fitted with silk uniforms, red headbands, and red lacquered leggings. Over the centuries the figures were damaged as wooden ceilings and pillars collapsed. Wooden arms and siIk uniforms have rotted away over the centuries.
Ready for combat, both sets of imperial terracotta armies carried actual weapons, bronze double-edged swords with wooden scabbards, crossbows, bows, halberds, spears, and pikes. They had the most complete accouterments to fight a contemporary battle. Qinís mounted unit had square two-wheeled chariots with bronze fittings harnessed by V-shaped yokes to four horses. Finely sculpted according to the equine ideal of the day, a large, vigorous breed of horse outfitted with fine saddles served the cavalry. The lack of stirrups testifies to the skilled horsemanship of Qinís army. Jing Diís soldiers had slightly different carriages, each drawn by three wooden horses but military weaponry was very similar.
Above and beyond any other legacies these emperors may have left behind, their terracotta armies survive as incredible works of art. Intricate details in armor, facial features, rank insignia, and positioning offer us a rich library of historic information and a peek into a segment of life in the early years of the Chinese empire.
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