Saturday April 21, 2012
Another side of Qin splendour
MADE IN CHINA
By CHOW HOW BAN
Relics in two pits at the Emperor Qin Shihuang Mausoleum Museum offer a glimpse of the lifestyle of China’s first emperor in the Qin court.
PIT K0006 and K9901 at the Emperor Qin Shihuang Mausoleum Museum in Shaanxi province’s Xi’an city has been open to visitors for about six months. But, many visitors would have missed them during their trip to the top tourist attraction in China.
The two pits, where 24 terracotta figures and horses and other relics such as a bronze tripod and a chariot were found, are located only a stone’s throw from the tomb of Qin Shihuang, China’s first emperor (259-210 BC).
As the distance between each of the three pits (Pit One, Pit Two and Pit Three) is about 1.5km in the main museum’s compound and opened much earlier in the late 1970s and early 80s, visitors usually miss them.
While Pit One, Two and Three offer a grand spectacle of the emperor’s terracotta army in military formations, Pit K0006 and K9901 provide a glimpse of the lifestyle of the emperor in the Qin court.
Pit K9901 is not much different from the first three pits as it holds the prized possessions of Qin Shihuang during his reign and that he ordered to be buried with him after his death, said the museum’s associate researcher Chen Zhiguo.
He said what was unique about this pit was the unearthing of figures of artisans and performers rather than warriors which were found in the earlier pits.
Since the pit was discovered in 1999, archaeologists have excavated 11 figures almost the size of humans and a 212kg bronze tripod from the central part of the pit. Most of the figures are half-naked without the armour or garb and pose in different acrobatic postures.
This pit is a showcase of the emperor’s entertainment palace where, for instance, he enjoyed dance and acrobatic performances. After his death, he took with him the performers who entertained him before, Chen said.
He said the pit was badly burnt and damaged by invaders most possibly the civilian troops led by Xiang Yu after the fall of the Qin dynasty.
In the past two years, the archaeological team built a permanent building over the pit, which covers an area of 885sq m, and strengthened the structure of the pit as part of its effort to discover more cultural relics in the area.
“We have removed almost all the soil and roof beams (that covered the pit). We are very close to reaching the relics and it’s hard to say for now whether we will unearth other types of terracotta figures,” he said.
About 50m from Qin Shihuang’s tomb, is Pit K0006, the sixth to be discovered in 2000.
According to associate researcher Jiang Wenxiao, the pit which covers an area of 410sq m holds several significant relics such as figures of chariot riders and civil servants.
“We found 12 figures of which eight were crossing their hands and another four were in a position of riding something. We believe they were civil officials and chariot riders respectively.
“Besides the figures, we discovered a broken carriage made mainly of wood and a bit of bronze, at the pit’s entrance as well as a huge pot and four bronze axes in a wing room,” he said.
He said to the south of the pit, archaeologists found bones of 10 horses which strongly indicate that it might be a horse stable.
He said there were basically three theories for the existence of the pit.
The first theory is that it was a horse stable pit. The second is that the emperor wished to re-enact the judiciary department in the Qin court judging by the presence of the figures of civil officials and bronze axes which signified judicial authority in ancient times.
The wooden chariot might be proof that the pit was to showcase a convoy of chariots used by the emperor.
There is only one chariot found at the site with only its roof made of bronze. So, the chariot was classified as one used by the lower rank than the emperor.
Based on these findings, it looks like the pit served as a horse stable pit because there are more horse remains found than others, Jiang said.
To date, only five pits are open to visitors, though there are about 600 pits and graveyards around the mausoleum.
Among the 8,000 terracotta figures and horses found in the pits, more than 2,000 of them have been successfully restored and displayed at the pits and museum.
Spread over 56.25sq km and reaching a height of 76m, the Qin Shihuang mausoleum remains the largest ever discovered in the world.