De­fend­ing the War­riors

> A the­ory that Greek sculp­tures in­spired the Ter­ra­cotta army has Chi­nese pa­tri­ots up in arms

The Sun (Malaysia) - - LIFESTYLE -

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.

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