History discussion paper

History discussion paper

writing response and comment  Write a post reflecting on anything that is relevant to what we discussed in class that week. Relating what you learned in class to your own experience is a good way to go about this.                                   Qin Shihuang. A talented military commander and the first person ever to unify China. These titles sound impressive yet distant to my ears.

Coming from Hong Kong, students like me were required to learn about his contributions and demerits since primary school. Similar to what we learned in the lecture, we realized that Qin Shihuang was the pioneer of a standardized society in China. He established a central bureaucracy, standardized measuring systems, and laid out a lot of construction projects. Qin’s absolute monarchy may sound horrible to people nowadays, as he was in control of every aspect of citizens’ lives. However, we should be thankful to a certain extent. Due to the blueprint Qin created for the following dynasties (e.g. Han dynasty) to follow. It’s safe to say that Qin is essentially the backbone of the modern Chinese society we have today.

Moving onto the impressive tomb and artifacts discovered in Xi’an. The methods and styles used in the mass production of terracotta warriors still amaze me after class. In 2012, I had the privilege to go to the terracotta warrior exhibition in the Hong Kong Museum of history, where 20 terracotta warriors were showcased along with interactive media elements. Back then, 10-year-old Anabel only set her eyes on the media aspect, which allowed me to design new armor for the terracotta warriors to wear.

With no prior knowledge of art history, I perceived the terracotta warriors simply as boring old clay statues. Now I appreciate and understand the amount of craftsmanship in making the burial mound happen. Despite the limited resources and technology people enjoyed in 221-206 BCE, artists created figures, war chariots, animals, and more with maximized varieties. Before class, I genuinely thought that all terracotta figures were identical. Turns out each figure is unique, with specially made body parts transported from different provinces. Not to mention the striking naturalism and great attention paid to detail to every figure in the tomb. One would think that in a mass production process of such investment the quantity would weigh over quality. But not Qin. Qin made sure what he owned when he was alive would accompany him to the necropolis when he dies. I especially adore the well-organized production process Qin ordered, in which the highly customized appearance contrasts with the uniform manufacturing.

Coming back to discussing the mastermind behind the tomb project, Qin. Many folklores have told the story of how Qin is terrified of death. He sent Taoist priests to search elixir of life so he could live forever and maintain his reign over China. Moreover, Qin Shihuang’s road to becoming an emperor was filled with obstacles, causing him to be cautious and skeptical for self-defense purposes. Hence, I suspect that it may be possible that the workers were killed and placed in Tombs of Mausoleum Builders at Yaochitou Village to prevent people from spreading the exact location of Qin’s necropolis, and to protect his grave goods from tomb raiders.

Furthermore, Qin emphasized the aspect of the military in his tomb for several reasons. Apart from flaunting the power and control he had and possibly use the military in the afterlife, I believe he wanted to replace the practice of burying people with the dead with terracotta inanimate objects. This practice would be more humane and cost-effective, as the Qin dynasty needed a labor force to recover from the battles and to facilitate the development of the country.

As fragile as terracotta is, it manages to preserve the history and artistic sense of our ancestors for us to study plus appreciate. To people who have never heard of terracotta warriors, one movie I suggest watching that included terracotta soldiers is The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Yes, the content is unrealistic and cheesy. But I’m sure all of us can enjoy some glimpses of art history while watching this comedy.

P.S. The armor I designed for the terracotta figures was a purple checkered pattern with daisies all over it. Not sure if Qin would have liked it, but I most certainly did.

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