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K. Kris Hirst

China's Terracotta Warriors: Secrets of the Dead Video Review

By February 1, 2013

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China's Terracotta Warriors is a 2011 DVD from the PBS/National Geographic series Secrets of the Dead, and it is packed with new information about these amazing 2,200 year old sculptures.

Secrets of the Dead - China's Terracotta Warriors
Secrets of the Dead: China's Terracotta Warriors, video cover. Courtesy Shop PBS.

The Terracotta Warriors, if you haven't heard of them, are 6.5 foot tall, 650 pound hand-built clay sculptures, made for the tomb of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, between 221 and 210 BC. Accidentally discovered in 1974, the estimated 6,000-8,000 soldiers (and the rest of the astoundingly complex tomb) have intrigued generations of international scholars, and promise to continue intriguing them for another several generations.

The contents of the Secrets of the Dead: China's Terracotta Warriors include an important discussion of the cultural meaning of the figures, but focuses primarily on the technological requirements of making the soldiers, everything from assembling a large enough crew to complete an estimated 8,000 soldiers in 11 years, to what it takes to collect enough hazardous lacquer to paint the protective covering over the colorful more-than-life-size images.

Fascinating: I particularly love the discussions concerning the wildly colorful paint that the soldiers wore when first buried, but has largely been lost to the ages. There are two painted soldiers (reconstructions) included in the video: the originals must have been breathtaking.


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