Defending the Warriors
> A theory that Greek sculptures inspired the Terracotta army has Chinese patriots up in arms
was similarly dismissive, saying the materials, technology, and ceramics techniques used for the Warriors were all Chinese.
“To say that the Qin tombs and ancient Greece had contact has no substantial evidence at all,” he told AFP. “It merely exists in the scholar’s conjecture.”
As emperor, he added, Qin Shihuang “not only innovated the terracotta warriors, he also created a series of innovations” including standardised weights and measures, national roads, and a unified currency.
“Who influenced whom, it’s tough to say. Ancient Greek sculpture had already also been influenced by Egypt.”
For evidence, Nickel points to historical records suggesting the first Qin emperor made casts of huge bronze statues seen in China’s far west, realistic detailing of muscle and bone on some figures, and the absence of an extensive prior sculptural tradition in China.
Further research could show that foreign empires may have provided a model for the Qin state itself, he told AFP.
“I think it’s perfectly possible that there’s much more influence in thought about statecraft, in how to run an empire, than people have been so far willing to admit.”
He points to the rise of empires in central Asia before the Qin dynasty, with the Achaemenids in Persia followed by Alexander the Great and the Seleucids.
“When I look at the map of Eurasia, what the Chinese do fits perfectly in the big picture.”
But basing theories about transmission of cultural ideas on stylistic similarities in objects fails to convince some Chinese scholars, he acknowledged.
“This is an argument that works mainly in Europe and America,” Nickel says.
In China, researchers rely more on textual evidence for proof, he said, and so were “very hesitant to believe there were interactions before the mid 2nd century BC, when the Chinese emperor of the Han dynasty sent an envoy to central Asia”.
And the idea of early SinoWestern exchanges threatens to undermine a cornerstone of Chinese identity: the Qin dynasty, while brutal in many respects, with book burnings and executions of literati, laid the foundation for the existance of China as a unified nation state, an idea that has persisted for over two millennia.
“That is the moment when China is being made,” said Nickel, acknowledging the sensitivity of his assertions.
Li Xiuzhen, a fellow scholar at the museum, told AFP that while there may have been cultural contact, that did not imply influence and the warriors were completely Chinese.
“The terracotta army is unique in the world,” she said, and the “creation of the Qin people”. – AFP
Cracks in the facade ... A controversial new theory, put forth by art historian Lukas Nickel (below) suggests that the Terracotta Warriors, as well as other key Chinese innovations, may have drawn influences from Western culture.