Qin Dynasty
Years Period China World
5,000-2,000 BCE Neolithic Beginning of agriculture: painted pottery Catal Huyuk
Lyre of Puabi
Pyramids in Egypt
Pictographs and invention of Cuneiform
Sargon of Akkad
Stele of Naram-Sin
Tell Asmar
c1700-221 BCE Bronze Age
Warring States Period
Shang dynasty; 
Chou (Zhou) dynasty
Shang dynasty; 
  • Chou (Zhou) dynasty
  • development of writing
  • bronze casting
  • Confucius c551-479 (Analects)
  • Developed philosophies leading to Taoism
  • Chuang Tzu (Chuang Chou) Butterfly
  • Lao Tzu (Codified Writings)
  • Iron Tools
Code of Hammurabi
Olmec in America
Golden Age of Perikles
Rome Begins
c221- 206 BCE Qin  (Chin) dynasty
  • Unification 
  • Centralized Bureaucracy
  • standardized money, written language, 
  • clay figures, 
  • Great Wall
  • Legalism introduced
  • Shan Yang c360 "Man is by nature evil"
  • Han Feizi c233 codified the system
Rome Begins
206 BCE - 220 CE  Han dynasty
  • Silk Road 
  • Taoism
  • Confucianism made state philosophy
  • Buddhism Introduced
Rise of Christianity
220 - 579 CE Six Dynasties
North, East and West Wei, 
Nomad Invasions,
Buddhism Grows
Rock Cut Caves
Monumental Buddhas
Birth of Mohammed
Edict of Milan
Hagia Sofia
Separation of Churches
568 - 617 CE Sui Reunification of China
618-907 Tang dynasty Repression of Buddhism
960-1279 CE Song (Sung) dynasty Neo Confucianism
Landscape Painting Develops

Qin Dynasty     221 BCE - 206 BCE

Form:  There are three pits: the first consists of foot soldiers, the second of calvary and the third of officers.  The officers pit in decorated like a tent.  The tombs face east towards the states the Qin's were fighting.  The individuals range in height from 5' 8" to 6'.  The heads and hands were made separately and there are five to ten facial types but they are not modeled after individuals.  There is a great variety of clothes, hair and poses.  There are at least seven thousand clay figures and wooden or gilt bronze chariots.  The clay figures would have originally been polychromed.  All of the figures are highly detailed and realistic.

The statues of the infantry soldiers range between 5 foot 8 inches and 6 foot 2 inches; the commanders are 6 and half feet tall. The lower half of the kiln-fired ceramic bodies were made of solid terracotta clay, the upper half hollow. It is evident that the statues were vividly painted including a color called Chinese purple; although most of that paint has flown, traces of it may be seen on some of the statues.

The following is quoted from:


Hand-in-sleeves pottery sculpture, terra cotta warriors
Pottery Sculpture
Experts have confirmed that the material used to mould the terracotta warriors and horses is a "yellow earth" sourced from around the mausoleum. The yellow earth is easy to obtain, and is proved to be an appropriate material due to its adhesive quality and plasticity. The earth underwent screening and grinding to remove impurities and to ensure it was fine and pure. Moreover, a certain amount of white grit which contained quartz sand, mica and feldspar was added. Adding grit to the earth strengthened its mechanical properties which allowed the large terracotta warriors and horses to be easily shaped.

Figure Creation

Experts have reconstructed the techniques for making the warriors by repeatedly observing, comparing and researching the figures during their sorting out and preparatory work.

The Making of Terracotta Warrior's Head: the shaping of the terracotta warrior's head is generally acknowledged to be the most difficult, and the procedure was very complicated. First, artisans molded an inner core roughly in head shape, and then applied several layers of mud to get different facial shapes. Finally by kneading, carving, scraping and pasting, artisans successively drew eyebrows, eyes, noses, mouths, ears, hair buns and hat decorations for the heads of terracotta warriors. They drew each figure with a distinctive face, and experts have confirmed that these facial features were reproductions of individual Qin warriors.

The Making of Terracotta Warrior's Body: Artisans used mud to make a rough cast which was molded from bottom to top in sections. First they made the foot plate which was molded in a square pattern;
A statue of a general, terra cotta warriors
A Statue of a General
the feet were the next and above which were connected the two legs and short pants. In order to represent muscles and bones to make the legs more lifelike, artisans would do some detailed repair. The way to make short pants was to carve a circle with a cord pattern above which were pasted prefabricated pieces of mud to mould as pant leg. Next was the hollow torso. It was made by winding strips of clay upwards. In order to make the clay strips tight and strong, artisans would put sackcloth inside as underlay and this was pounded from outside until they got a satisfactory shape and size. After the torso had been dried in the shade, artisans attached the hollow arms. The straight arm was built by adopting the clay-strip forming technique. Divided by the elbow, the bent arm was made in separate pieces and then glued together. The warrior's hand was inserted and pasted onto the arm.


The figures of the terracotta warriors and horses were fired in kilns. In order to be well ventilated, the Qin artisans left holes in the figures in appropriate position. For example, in the terracotta horse's belly, there were two holes through which flames could evenly enter the horse's body cavity. During the firing, artisans paid special attention to the degree of heating which was maintained around 1,000 C (1,830 F). Moreover, experts did many experiments and found that the figures were put head over heels during firing. This was because the upper part of the figure was heavier than the lower part. It was comparatively more stable to put the figures upside down, which shows that Chinese workers had mastered the centre-of-gravity rule as early as two thousand years ago.

Glazing and Coloring

The terra cotta warriors have different faces and expressions.
They have different faces.
The Qin terracotta warriors we see today are steel grey without fresh colors. But archaeological investigations have found that this was not the original color of the mighty force. In the April of 1999, there were astonishingly unearthed six kneeling armored warriors whose bodies retained large sections of colorful painting, which demonstrated that the Qin's artisans had elaborately painted the terracotta warriors and horses after firing, to make this majestic army more lifelike.

Experts have found that the ways used to paint these six warriors were different. For some, one or two layers of raw lacquer were applied on certain parts, and for the others, they first painted a layer of raw lacquer, and added one or two layers of pigment above the raw lacquer. The figures were gaily colored. The hair buns were reddish brown, faces were pink, hands were dark red or white, legs were pinkish green or dark red and they wore pinkish green robes and reddish brown shoes.

Iconography:  The immense army is a symbol of the Qin Shihuangdi power.  The army serves as a guardian to his tomb but may also have represented his actual living army.  In a way, the army and figures are representations of the emperor's power on the earth and his attempt to take this power with him into the next world.   Accounts of the tomb they guard (the tomb itself is still unexcavated) describe a facsimile world complete with buildings, rivers and stars placed in the heavens.  This world would be the also be a representation of the actual topography of the Qin kingdom.

The opulence and expense of making such highly detailed soldiers and the use of such grand materials in the  tomb is a form of conspicuous consumption.  This kind of consumption of wealth for its own sake might be viewed be viewed as iconic of the wealth and power of the emperor.

Context:  Under King Chung, the Qin were able to unify a large part of China.  King Chung proclaimed himself the first emperor of China.  As king, he created a modern central capitol, Xiang, with city planing and public works.  He standardized the language, weight system and money.  King Chung centralized the government and unified and linked together all of the northern walls to form the Great Wall of China.  He was against Confucianism and persecuted he scholars and burned the texts.  He created many palaces and patronized the arts.  His empire crumbled four years after his death.  His tomb has yet to be excavated, the Chinese are waiting until they have enough money to do it properly.  King Chung's tomb was begun before his rise to power.  It took thirty eight years to create.  It contains a palace and a fake map.  There are constellations made of pearls on the ceiling and mercury rivers.  The hill that originally covered the burial sites was over six hundred feet tall.  Well diggers discovered the site when they stumbled across pits one and three.  It is thought that surrounding the already discovered areas may lie a funerary palace like the one the emperor lived in while he was alive.

The army guards the actual tomb of Qin Shihuangdi.  Written and legendary accounts of the tomb (the tomb itself is still unexcavated) describe a realistic landscape complete with buildings, rivers and stars placed in the heavens. The rivers are supposed to flow with liquid mercury and the stars in the heavens (the ceiling of the tomb) are pearls.


Army of Emperor Shi Huangdi
211 BCE - 207 BCE
Shaanxi Province, China
Qin Dynasty

Polychrome:     Literally means many colors.