The Terracotta Army

Image from today-i-found-out article; click through for link.

In 1974, a group of Chinese peasants digging a well in Shaanxi Province made a stunning discovery: a life-size clay statue of an ancient soldier. They notified authorities, who dispatched a group of archaeologists to investigate.

The archaeologists didn’t find just one soldier. They found thousands, meant to be an army serving Emperor Qin Shi Huang in his afterlife. (Read more about Qin and his army here from National Geographic, and here, from Smithsonian Magazine.)

Image of the dig site, now under roof, from Wikipedia.

They found more than eight thousand terracotta (baked clay) figures, mostly soldiers but also court officials, horses, acrobats, dancers, musicians, and servants. The kicker? Each one was unique. Some groups might all be wearing similar armor or clothing, but each face is different.

The General. Photo by JW Guthrie, all rights reserved.

Among the photos of the seven similarly-accoutered generals (distinguished by the tassels on their armor, their elaborate hats, and their pointing index fingers), for example, I see that one has a narrow face and tilted eyes, one has full cheeks and sideburns, one has flat broad cheekbones and worry lines on his forehead.

Horse and rider. Photo by JW Guthrie, all rights reserved.

This aspect fascinates me most. Did each person of Emperor Qin’s army pose for the clay-figure artisans? Or were the artisans given free reign to portray various personalities as they liked, representing different ethnic or cultural groups in the Emperor’s army? Or were only the figures of high rank actual portraits, while those showing lowly foot soldiers or archers just representational? I don’t think we’ll ever know for certain, though some research indicates that the figures are truly individual portraits.

The officer. His weapon (probably a sword) disintegrated over time. Photo by JW Guthrie, all rights reserved.

Qin’s legacy includes a group of former principalities unified into one country, the standardization of monetary units, weights and measures, vastly increased infrastructure and commerce, and the first version of the Great Wall. (Dude was busy.) However, his legacy has been somewhat tarnished by the recognition that he only managed to do all this with forced slave labor. Then, too, his heir survived only three years past Qin’s death due to assassination, and dynastic rule passed to another family.

Kneeling Archer, originally holding a crossbow. Check out his upper-body armor. Photo by JW Guthrie, all rights reserved.

However, the incredible tomb complex — which has not been fully excavated — is amazing. Read more about recent discoveries here.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond is currently hosting an exhibit of several of these figures, as well as other artifacts from this time period. See here for more details about the exhibit itself. If you’re within driving distance, please do yourself a favor and go.

A foot soldier, originally armed with a spear. I love this photo for its detail of the soldier’s face. Even the chip out of his right eyebrow doesn’t detract from the strong facial features. Photo by JW Guthrie, all rights reserved.

The CEO took some wonderful pictures at the exhibit (flash is prohibited, by the way). These photos belong to him, so please don’t steal them. If you’d like to use one, just email me and I’m sure we can work something out.

I have not included here photos of the small stableboy figure, the court official, the full-size charioteer, or the quarter-size statue of a chariot drawn by four horses and manned by a charioteer under a bronze sunshade. I’ve also not included several interesting photos of decorated roof tiles and drain pipes, or some really lovely pottery ware from the period, also on exhibit. There was just too much to highlight it all.

Standing Archer, in the process of readying his bow. Note that in contrast to the Kneeling Archer, who would have been closer to the front, he has only a padded tunic and no armor. Photo by JW Guthrie, all rights reserved.

It was interesting to me that my family members had different favorites, of the figures on exhibit. Bookworm liked Kneeling Archer best, for his clever, narrow face and his battle-ready position. Taz preferred the horse and rider for their similar expressions. Gaze was most impressed with the General’s stalwart, assured stance. The CEO and I both chose the Standing Archer. The CEO favored his dynamic pose, and I liked his calm, alert face.

Look, doesn’t he have a cool face? I would be friends with this guy. Photo by JW Guthrie, all rights reserved.

The VMFA gift shop had several sizes of reproduction figurines for sale, the smaller ones quite reasonably priced and all beautifully made. Unfortunately there are none of my standing archer, and the general figurine has a different face than the one on display, so I didn’t buy one. I hope I won’t regret that. (Though there’s always eBay, should I change my mind later.)

I’ve been fascinated by the Terracotta Army since I was young and National Geographic did a story on the recently-found figures. It was so gratifying to finally see them and to recognize that they were even better than I’d imagined them.

 

 

 

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Scent Diary, Dec. 25-31, 2017

Monday, Dec. 25: Merry Christmas! I hope you had a lovely day, if you celebrate.

Beautiful original Alahine today for a lovely day with the family. Bacon and homemade cinnamon rolls and my mom’s delicious scalloped apples for breakfast. Stockings and gifts, lovely surprises.

We went to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a family in the afternoon and then spent a good bit of time talking about it. No spoilers, but we felt that we could have written a considerably better script.

Tuesday, Dec. 26: Another nice (if chilly) day, spent with The CEO’s family. I had recently cleaned out a closet and found a few samples in a box, along with a Travalo atomizer, full but unlabeled. I’m not absolutely sure what’s in it, but I think it’s Prada Infusion d’Iris. Which Bookworm once misread and called “Infection of Iris,” and from there it morphed into “Infectional Virus,” which might be juvenile and crass but it makes us laugh. That was my SOTD. It’s funny, but there are a fair number of perfumistas who consider Id’I (Infectional Virus, wink wink) the gold standard for wearing to a dentist visit. Apparently we tend to find it inoffensive, pleasant and calming.

Vintage Samsara parfum in the evening, for coziness.

Wednesday, Dec. 27: The CEO, along with Gaze and his first cousin Curiosity, and Curiosity’s dad K (who was The CEO’s roommate at Virginia Tech, way back in the day, before he married The CEO’s sister E), went to a basketball game at VT before they delivered his sister J to the airport and went home themselves. Bookworm and Taz and I rested and cleaned up a bit. I’ve made three giant vats of spiced cider this week, and the third batch is almost gone already. SOTD was Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique from an old sample. This one is really nice, a pleasant spicy woody vanilla; I was surprised to find out that it’s been discontinued. Huh.

The general talk about PG in comments on Now Smell This is that Pierre Guillaume is perhaps too expansive with his product line, both with the original Parfumerie Generale and the more boutiquey Huitieme Art house. Then, too, as far as I understand, he is also the perfumer for Phaedon Perfumery; I’m not sure whether he’s materially involved in owning Phaedon or not. The perfumista complaint is that he seems to always be promoting the new-New-NEW stuff and ignoring the marketing of the original products, to the detriment of sales. PG himself does come off looking a bit vain (go check out his Facebook page, which despite being designed as a public figure/business type page has a fairly large number of pics of him posing like a model). I don’t know. I do know that Un Crime Exotique was really good and I am wishing I had a small decant of it. I liked Felanilla, too. Have not smelled any of the more recent PG fragrances, nor any Huitieme Art nor any Phaedon.

Shrug. So many MANY fragrances, so little time. (So few available to me to smell for free, as well.)

Thursday, Dec. 28: SOTD was Lolita Lempicka Eau de Minuit. A writing day/cleaning up day — though we won’t really dismantle the Christmas decor until New Year’s. It is COLDDDD.

Friday, Dec. 29: Took Thorin (the Sorento) to have his oil changed and the slow leak in his rear passenger tire repaired, and it took so long that after that and swinging by the grocery store, there was practically no time to do much else. Virginia Tech lost its bowl game, unaccountably. Of the numerous VT sports writers around here, nobody seems to understand exactly why it was so unsuccessful against Oklahoma State.

In the evening, we decided that we would get up early and drive to Richmond to see the Terracotta Army exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I’d visited that museum once before, with my sister. She did her best to explain modern art to me, but I suppose I am a philistine. So much of it I just don’t get. Quite often I’m looking at it and thinking, “Um, so? What exactly about this is art? What am I supposed to be thinking or feeling? Because I’m thinking, ‘my preschooler did something remarkably similar to this,’ and ‘this is basically A Colored Rectangle and I have no feelings about it one way or another.'” Sometimes the sculpture has an impact on me and I enjoy it, but a lot of the 2D stuff, nah.

But the terracotta army? Fascinating! I will be posting a separate article on it, with The CEO’s pictures, in a few days.

After the art museum we visited Virginia’s historic and beautiful state house. The last time I’d been there was ca. 1978, when I was a fourth-grader on a field trip, and it was exciting to see the new entrance to the building, constructed under the hill in 2007. I could spend a lot of time talking about this building, which is the second oldest state house or state capitol building in the US (behind Maryland, although Virginia’s state legislature is the oldest body continuously in existence, because the Virginia legislature moved its location from Jamestown to Williamsburg and only then to Richmond). It was designed by Thomas Jefferson and would look quite familiar to many Americans because of its similarity to much of the architecture of federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and indeed to many government buildings throughout the United States. It does contain an interior dome not visible from the outside, but maintains a clean and simple exterior roofline.

Thing is, the Virginia State Capitol was conceived and its cornerstone laid in 1795, five years before Washington, D.C. even existed, much less before a building was constructed inside the new capital city. Neoclassicism as used in American governmental buildings really began with Jefferson’s architecture based on ancient Roman temple Maison CarrĂ©e in Nimes, France. The Virginia General Assembly still meets in this building, albeit in wings built in 1904.

This building also houses the only statue of George Washington created from life studies, by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. (More than two dozen bronze copies of this statue exist in various places, including the Washington Monument, so undoubtedly you’ve seen one of those — but this one in glowy Carrara marble the color of moonlight is the original.)

We got home late but glad we took the opportunity to go.

Sunday, Dec. 31: L’Arte di Gucci for this quiet day at home. The CEO built a fire and edited his photos of the terracotta army, and we cleaned up before spending the evening together.

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