In China, tombs were created to bury the Emperors and their relatives, since they believed that there was life after death. Therefore, the tomb acted like a palace of the Emperor after his death. Additionally, an Emperor was buried together with all his possessions including his lovers, wives, protectors, tamed animals as well as food and drinks. Temples were built around the tombs so that family members could give offerings to their dead relatives. However, during the Han Dynasty era, human sacrifice was not common. So, after the death of Emperor Jing, his army was not killed, but he was buried with more than five thousand actual size terracotta soldiers, who were meant to protect him in his next life. The paragraphs below discuss the various figurines found in his tomb; terracotta soldiers, secretaries, servants, objects, celestial world, kitchen supplies, mural paintings as well as texts.
Emperor Jing’s tomb is found in a village known as Zhanjiawan in the Xian city. It took a very long time to build the tomb because it occupies an area of approximately thirteen square kilometers. It has a gate on each side and the public is allowed to use the Southern one. “Archaeologists have found approximately 60000 burial objects, among them – t naked painted pottery figurines, weapons, chariots and horses, daily utensils and a lot of pottery animals.”1 The pottery figurines vary in size and look so real that people honor them as “the oriental Apollo and Venus.”2
The tomb of Emperor Jing has got figurines with clear facial expressions making them look real. Terra cotta army figures were about seven hundred and were two feet tall. When compared to the other figurines, terra cotta army was different in many ways. Firstly, they were naked and had sex organs. Secondly, the site was full of silk pieces indicating that the soldiers were not buried naked, rather, they had clothes. Thirdly, their facial expressions differed from each other. They had put serious faces indicating that they were ready for the war. Moreover, some of them held swords, protective leather covering and shields made of wood. Indeed, the body language indicated clearly that they were soldiers due to the weapons they were carrying and the protective clothing. Therefore, they were different from other figurines. The materials used to make the figurines were got from Mt Li and the facial features were created by use of clay. The arms were wooden. “The terracotta figurines evoke the relatively peaceful life of this period, during which traditions that still live on in China today were established.”3 The figurines of terracotta army represented the entire army during that period, which indicated that the Emperor was well protected. These figurines tell more of the social status than all the other figurines. They represent the skills of art as well as a fully protected state during that era. The image below shows figurines of soldiers with different faces and hair styles since each figurine was unique to make them appear more real.
Apart from protection, the Emperor required amusement in his next world. As a result, there were figurines of entertainers in the tomb. Firstly, there were male statues with kilts and they represented acrobats. They appeared smaller in size than the terra cotta soldiers. “These figures reveal a naturalistic and dynamic approach to human anatomy that astounded the archaeologists who discovered them.”4 Secondly, there were figurines of dancers, singers and wrestlers. Female entertainers were well designed and looked very charming. The entertainers were made of wooden arms and the painting made them look ideal. Unlike the other figurines such as the terra cotta soldiers, their facial expressions indicated happiness as well as excitement since they were meant to entertain the Emperor. Some of them were carrying musical instruments such as bamboo flutes to show that they were real musicians. The instruments and clothes acted as the body language showing that they were actually musicians. They were a symbol of thriving economy during the mid Western Han. The picture below shows a figurine of an entertainer playing a flute.
Furthermore, the ruler’s court was represented by figurines of various officials including the servants. The figurines portrayed a male official statue as well as a female assistant who was dressed in very beautiful attire. Also, there was a statue of a man whose genitals were modified 5. This means that the man was already circumcised and thus he had the right to serve the ruler as well as his wives and concubines. The figurines were sculpted as nude statues then wooden arms were fixed. They were then painted with beautiful colors, which made them look real. They looked attractive with well applied make-up. Figurines of the female servants were all clothed in silk gowns. Their facial expressions indicated courtesy and respect. They were not as excited as the entertainers and neither were they serious like the terra cotta soldiers. Therefore, their body language differentiated them from the other figurines, for instance, the modified genitals as well as the less exaggerated decorations. During that period, the economy was boosted by the silk trade. Therefore, “garments made of brocades, silk, , gauze and damasks from the tombs show that Han weaving was done according to elaborate looms.”6 Servant figurines were put in the tomb in order to serve the Emperor in his other world. The figurine below shows a servant of the Emperor.
The figurines representing the secretaries were well dressed to show that they were doing a formal job. They were sixty two centimeters tall and beautifully painted. The arms were made of wood and they had all the organs. Although their facial expressions were different, they looked calm and respectable. The statues were well painted to re-construct the abundant life in the court. Also, they had long hair that was neatly combed thus made them look prettier. Unlike the entertainers, they had fewer decorations because they had to look formal. They act as a symbol of the thriving social life of that era. The nation purposely demeaned literature as well as arts, somewhat to increase its own reputation but also to develop the common culture in China.7
Objects found in the tomb represented good things that were to be used by the Emperor in the next world. The objects were put in glossy synthetic boxes while others were gold coated. They symbolized a society that was rich culturally. During this era, people wished the dead a happy life and that is the reason why they put furnished objects. In the tomb, excavators found many pieces of gold, bronze as well as jade. This kind of possession shows how the Emperor was valued since he was not like any other ordinary person. “The mingling of regional customs in both architecture and artifacts implies the spread of a more homogenous culture across the land.”8 The royal family in this era valued jade very much thus the Emperor’s tomb was full of jade and besides, jade was believed to preserve the dead body thus preventing quick decomposition. Basically, the expensive seals such as gold were meant to make the Emperor enjoy his status in the next world. The picture below shows a girl holding a lamp made of bronze. It was found in the Emperor’s tomb thus indicating that casting of bronze was very common during that time.
Figurines of household supplies were also found in the Emperor’s tomb. They included things such as the pots and utensils. The pots were earthen ware and of moderate size. Besides, they had measurement details on them and were well painted. Most of the kitchen utensils were made of bronze thus indicating the valued life of the Emperor. The utensils also represented the precious culture in that era.
Celestial world figurine was represented by a statue of a “feathered man”9 who symbolically represented the messenger of the Emperor in the next world. The statue had feathers attached in its body. The image was a painted statue. The figurine acted a symbol of communication in the next life of the Emperor because, in his after life, the Emperor still needed someone he could send. The facial expression of this figurine indicated honesty as well as calmness. It was different from others since it had feathers which symbolized a fast communication process. Therefore, the feathers differentiated its body language from the other statues.
Wall paintings as well as texts were put to educate people. The tomb had so many writings on it since it acted as a tourist attraction. The writings directed people. Besides, the wall paintings as well as the writings showed history of the Emperor. They helped people know get to more about the past. Furthermore, the writings were used to warn people of a ruthless ruler.
In conclusion, the Chinese during the Han Dynasty period buried their nobles in tombs that were filled with sculptures. They believed that since there was life after death, the nobles needed respect even in their afterlife. That is the main reason why they put a lot of effort when they were burying their dead ones. The body language of the figurines clearly indicated their social status. The figurines also symbolized their rich culture.