Renowned as one of the Eight Wonders of the World, the Terracotta Army caused a sensation upon their discovery, not only because of the impressive size of the army, but also due to the masterful craftsmanship of the sculptures.
All the soldiers and horses are life-size, the former about 1.85 meters tall and the latter 1.6 meters in height. The original figures were colorfully painted, but most of the color was lost after long years of burial. The sculptures are realistic representations of real-life models, without any exaggeration or distortion. All the warriors are distinctive in terms of hairstyle, eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips, ears and beards, showing their individual age, position and personality. Both soldiers and horses look vivid and exude a sense of dynamic motion.
For example, the half-squatting, half-kneeling archers in Pit 2 each have their hair tied in a knot and wear suits of armor over their war robes. They genuflect on one leg while squatting on the other, their bodies leaning forward and their hands pulling bows. Although no bows or arrows survived the long years underground, the archers’ posture clearly shows the tension of the process of shooting. The standing archers feature strong bodies and highly alert expression, with eyebrows lowered, nostrils slightly flaring and ears alert. Listening attentively, they seem ready to strike at the first signal of battle. Even the suits of armor have different creases to show the movements of the different soldiers. A range of use of body strength in the half-squatting and half-kneeling archers is also discernible. Such vivid representation of detail helps to create the illusion that the warriors are actually alive.
There are more than 600 terracotta horses in the three pits, which also closely resemble real horses. Some are pulling chariots, while others are cavalry steeds. Take one of the cavalry horses in Pit 2 for example. It is standing firmly behind a cavalry soldier. It seems to be raising its front legs while keeping its hind legs steady on the ground. The horse holds its head high, with its mane standing erect. Its tail, while remaining still, is turned a little upwards. The head features clear-chiseled lines, looking sturdy and neat. With flaring nostrils, a gently closed mouth and wide-open eyes, the horse appears highly vigilant and dynamic.
The Terracotta Army of the First Emperor of Qin has enabled people of today to attain a new understanding of the great sculptural arts of over 2,000 years ago, through realistic and vivid representation of an unprecedented number of warriors, horses and chariots.