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28 October 2007 @ 10:47 pm
I Is edumacated me  
On Monday went to the British Museum to visit the First Emperor exhibition.

It was awesome.

You can't take pictures in there unfortunately but here's one courtesy of the British Museum:



Obviously most people are there to see the terracotta figures but that's certainly not all there is to the exhibition. For those of of you who know the BM, the exhibition is being held in the Reading Room by the virtue of a raised floor above the bookcases. When you enter you're offered an audio guide for £3.50 and it was a good investment. I listened to it, learned all the pertinent facts and then acted as tour guide to the bro.

When you first enter you walk up a set of stairs to be faced with a kneeling archer and the guide encourages you to have a damn good look at the detail there. And holy cow is it detailed - each bit of armour, the expression on his face - you really can believe that each one is an individual. The first part of the exhibition was all about Qin Shi Hungadi's life. How he became king of the Qin providence at the age of 13 then systematically went about beating all the other providences during his early 20's until he proclaimed himself Emperor of China (the name itself coming from Qin - pronounced 'chin'). There was a lot about his achievements. About how, although he didn't have a lot of  interest in beauty or art, he set up bureaucracy, a common monetary system, trade, the first version of the Great Wall...A lot of the things he started are apparently the basis of Chinese society still today. He really was a forward thinker of his time.

The most impressive thing about him though is his tomb. The size and scale of what this man had done is almost incomprehensible and gives you some insight into his state of mind. I mean this is a man who went to the mountains in the north, south, east and west of his empire and wrote about how great he was on each of them. He thought an awful lot of himself, said he was pretty much the ruler of the universe and really didn't want to let a little thing like dying get in the way of that.

His tomb itself is under a man made mountain covering 2 square miles. The ceiling is supposedly covered in pearls that act as a representation of the constellations. He is allegedly in a coffin in the middle of a map of his empire, the rivers of which are made with mercury. Which they thought was crap until they measured massive amounts of mercury in the soil over where he is buried. They've also recently discovered, using clever scientific stuff, the shape of the buildings under the mountain.

The rest of the burial complex covers something like 56 square miles. The terracotta army were rediscovered in 1974 by a farmer digging a well. Since then they've found about 8,000 soldiers, every one of which is an individual. The amazing thing was that these figures were mass produced by what was pretty much the world's first production line and yet they spent extra time and effort making each one different with expressions, facial features and hairstyles. It took 700,000 men to complete. Really the scale of the thing is almost unfathomable.

They've got a selection of different soldiers there and a horse, all of which would have originally been holding weapons which have long since rotted away. You can spend just an age staring at them. It's quite creepy in a way, when you think about what they represent and what they're part of. To see them all in ranks and units in China must be jaw dropping.

Further along they have a small chariot and horses (which is a replica as the originals are far too delicate to travel). They then have a selection of bureaucrats, a wrestler and a acrobat as well as two recently found musicians and three life size birds (swan, goose, heron). Apparently these were found in a chamber that was part of the underground palace and which had a stream redirected through it so that the birds could look like they were feeding next to a river. That is the sort of attention to detail they had in the complex.

There was also one of the suits of armour. Made of individual stone pieces held together with bronze, this would work as a suit of armour if it wasn't for two things - first, it would have weighed 18kgs and second, it would have shattered if hit. The speculation was that the armoury contained equipment for the terracotta soldiers so they can protect the emperor from threats in the spirit world.

Lastly they have a reproduction of the kneeling archer to show you what they would have originally looked like when they were all painted - most of the colour on the real soldiers is all but gone.

My brother summed up Qin Shi Hungadi as 'barmy with a massive ego'. Utterly true really but major respect to him. I mean who would have had such imagination and vision to create something so insanely wonderful? It really is like something out of Indiana Jones. You almost think that something like that shouldn't exist outside of fiction.

It's just a pity that they may not be able to open the tomb in my life time. I'm desperate to know what's down there!
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Dunedune_drd on October 29th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)
Gaah, you make me so jealous. I'd love to see that exhibition
keeping it vaguely imaginary...: Bunny Who // frozenreality.co.uk__kali__ on October 30th, 2007 07:06 pm (UTC)
he amazing thing was that these figures were mass produced by what was pretty much the world's first production line and yet they spent extra time and effort making each one different with expressions, facial features and hairstyles.

They sound like an ancient version of WETA.
doylefan22doylefan22 on October 30th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
They were kinda.

Except I don't think they used Andy Serkis...