Qin Shihuang’s terracotta funerary army hasn’t ever been high on the UF China attractions list. In Xi’an, there’s no choice but to see it though.
The site is an extraordinary place. For a start, it is only very incompletely excavated — deliberately so — making the great halls a monument to the archaeological enterprise, almost as much as to the partially-exhumed exhibit itself. Qin Shihuang’s tomb is still undisturbed. It’s is beyond the capabilities of contemporary archaeology to deal with it, according to Chinese experts. Mercury saturation from moats of the alchemically-precious substance add a toxicity problem to the other technical difficulties.
The worked-site (and exhibition area) is divided into three pits, of which the first is the hanger-scale structure shown here, in which the vast majority of the excavated warriors are displayed. Pit-2 presents the opportunity for a closer look at individual warriors. Pit-3 dramatizes the archaeological effort with special intensity.
The slogan “Dreams from the Qin Dynasty come true” might strike those of a more Confucian inclination with some misgivings, but it seems to have been selected as the condensation of the site’s official meaning. The non-uniformity of the model army, which is the main aesthetic point foregrounded, might perhaps be a hook for some ideological ambiguity. It’s not being presented as a fantasy of clone troopers, at least.