The lesser known Hanyanling terracotta Army

The lesser known Hanyanling terracotta Army

Sunday 5 November 2017, 3 pm


Bob Ollis is an expert in ceramics and Chinese antiquities . After a professional career in the British Army having served in various countries, the lure of the history of the Eastern Mediterranian prompted an interest in the silk road and cultures further east. China soon became the subject of study and, after obtaining a solid base in ancient Chinese cultures, founded an antique company specialising in items from the Neolithic period (3000 BC) to the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD).

After a short period, the business was joined by Anne-Marie Oostermeijer who herself dealt in Chinese furniture, and Ollis and Oostermeijer Chinese Antiquities was born. We have shown at various European Antique fairs for more than 20 years and, continue to provide items of quality to collectors and institutions but, also continue to update, on a daily basis, our knowledge of one of the worlds most fascinating cultures.

Considered to be the most important discovery of the last 25 years, the Yangling Mausoleum is the joint tomb of the Western Han Dynasty Emperor JingDi (Liuqi) and his Empress, Wang.

This short account is intended to highlight the importance of this discovery and of its significance in MINGQI. Most people are aware of the terracotta army of the First Emperor, Qin. Whilst digging for water in 1974, peasant farmers near Xian stumbled across what was to become the most famous discovery in Chinese history.

About 1 km from the mausoleum  pits were disovered,  containing life-size, terracotta statues of soldiers. Subsequent excavation revealed a complete army of about 6,000 in battle formation and accompanied by horses and chariots. This was the army that was to accompany Qin in the afterlife.

Now a National treasure, the excavated pits and reconstructed statues can be viewed by the public. Excavations are still continuing at the site and it is expected that further discoveries are imminent.

When Qin died in 206 BC the Imperial Han dynasty was born. The Han were only too aware of the existence of the army as it took over 25 years to complete and required thousands of workmen and vast amounts of materials to construct. They continued the practice of burying terracotta statues in underground chambers for use in the afterlife but never on such a grand scale as Qin’s army.

The first three Han Emperors were known to have had lavish burials with all that they could need in the next life but it was fourth Emperor, JingDi, who died in 141 BC, who attempted to emulate Qin and his vast, subterranean army.


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