Qin Terra Cotta Artisans

Kneeling archer, Qin terra cotta warriors
Kneeling Archer
During the excavation and repair work on the terracotta warrior figures, experts discovered many names carved or printed on the bodies of these figures. So far 87 different names have been recognized. They were found hidden in such places as the hips or under the arms of the terracotta warrior statues. Further research has shown that these 87 people were the master craftsmen, and that these craftsmen had assistants of their own. All in all, it is estimated that about a thousand people participated in the making of the terracotta warriors.

Where were these artisans from? The Qin Government recruited countless skilled artisans from all parts of the country. They not only came from Shaanxi, where the warriors were discovered, but also from today's Henan, Hubei, Shandong and Shanxi Provinces. Some artisans worked for the central government, but others were ordinary people. If you look carefully, you will see that the figures created by the artisans from the central government look dignified and majestic. On the other hand, the figures carved by the folk artisans look lively and fresh, which is greatly related to their life experience and living environment. Also, the technical skill level is reflected in the appearance of the warrior figures. Generally speaking, the artistic skill of the artisans from the central government is higher than that of the folk ones.

Visitors are amazed by this masterpiece created by the Qin people. Each plate of armor  was ground by hand to achieve the perfect thickness of 0.3 centimeters. Archaeologists tried to reproduce this armor, but even the most modern tools can only cut a piece of plate armor to 0.5 centimeters. The detail
Stone Armor
Stone Armor
on the ancient plates is also magnificent. It is difficult to imagine how these ancient people punched holes in the brittle limestone plates. Archaeologists believe that these early craftsmen ceaselessly sprayed water on the plates to keep them from breaking during the drilling process. To give you some perspective on the labor involved, three archaeologists spent three months to make 600 pieces of armor. Using this as a benchmark, they estimated that it took 3,600 artisans working for an entire year to create all of the armor in the pit.

These skilled craftsmen, as well as the soldiers, fulfilled the Emperor Qin Shihuang's dream of ruling in the after-world.  Bamboo slips unearthed in the pit recorded some of their letters home and from these we can catch a glimpse of their daily life. One soldier (or maybe an artisan) wrote, "Mother, if the cloth is too expensive at home, please send me some money, and I can buy some cloth here and sew padded jackets myself." An artisan wrote, "I have to work carefully every day, if I paint the weapons incorrectly, my officer will punish me very severely." From those words, we can see that these common people lived a stressful and hard life when they worked for the emperor.

However, even though the technical skills of all the artisans were excellent, and their contribution to the Qin Empire was incalculable, their fate was sealed. After the death of the Emperor Qin Shihuang, Hu Hai, the second emperor of Qin Dynasty, ordered to bury them alive in the tomb passages so that the secret of the mausoleum would not be revealed. The poor artisans became the victims of the death of Emperor Qin Shihuang and guarded the entrance to his tomb for over two-thousand years.
Punishment Instrument
Punishment Instrument
Statues of Work Scene
Statues of Work Scene
 Recommended Tour Itinerary:
Terracotta Warriors Tour: One-day to visit Terracotta Army Museum and more
More Xian Tours

Next: How the Terracotta Warriors were Made