How Were Terracotta Soldiers Made

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The Terracotta Army is one of the most mysterious creations of the ancient world. More than 8,000 Terracotta Soldiers were made to accompany the First Emperor of unified China Qin Shi Huang in his last journey.

It was estimated that it took 700,000 workers to accomplish the mammoth task of creating the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum complex near the city of Xian. It remains unclear how many craftsmen were actually involved in moulding and building the terracotta soldiers, however, it is quite clear that making 8000 life-size clay figures was not an easy task.

The ancient Chinese "conveyor" started by sourcing the material. It is believed that the best terracotta clay was found nearby the building site. It was transported to one centralized workshop where the clay was cleaned and prepared for moulding.

Terracotta clay mass was then distributed to different workshops where workers rolled it into sheets. Craftsmen then turned the clay sheets into hollow body details for the warriors. The body of a terracotta soldier was usually assembled from legs, two parts of torso and arms. Head and palms that required more elaboration and attention were added at a later stage. It is almost certain that terracotta soldiers were crafted from the foot up to head.

It took good quality and precise moulds to create faces, palms and fingers of the terracotta warriors. Modern scientists think that there were only eight different face moulds used on Xian site. At the first glance it seems almost unbelievable because all 8000 terracotta soldiers have unique facial features. However, only the basic shapes of face came out of the moulds. Chinese craftsmen then had to take on a grueling manual work by adding individuality to each warrior.

When the terracotta warrior was built, it was sent to a colouring workshop. What we see now is just the remnants of the flamboyant warriors. They were all covered in unbelievably bright colours that actually represented the army uniform of the times. 2200 years on, the colours are faded and only a rigorous series of tests can determine the original colours of the Terracotta Army.

Some believe that the terracotta warriors were made to resemble the warriors from the First Emperor's guard. This theory is not very credible, though. It took decades to build all 8000 warriors and many guards would have been killed in battles or changed their place of service. In other words - it is hard to capture the faces of the army if the contingent is changing so frequently. However, it is likely that some of the noblest warriors of the First Emperor's guard were actually perpetuated through their terracotta look-alikes.

A work of this scale would become impossible without a strict system and good management especially when different stages of work was carried out by separate workshops. Every worker and craftsman was in the right place, in the right time and doing the right thing. This wonderful example of ancient history shows that although the conveyor was invented in the 20th century, people had been actually using techniques of mass production thousands of years before that.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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