'Terra Cotta Warriors' details

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 20, 2009

Each full-size human figure weighs 300 to 400 pounds. The horse, 750. Like snowflakes, no two warriors are exactly alike. Subtle differences in facial hair and features, head size, physique and meticulous clothing details have lead to the theory that at least some of them may have been based on real people.

Which is astonishing, considering that they were almost surely made in assembly-line fashion, like mannequins in a factory, but with unique artisanal touches added before the final kiln firing. A pair of side-by-side dioramas show the labor-intensive process of putting together a clay soldier and a horse.

Before they were installed in the pits, the figures were painted. Although most of the paint has long since worn off, you can see some of the remaining pigment -- including bright red patches -- on the kneeling archer. Also, check out the fussy treads on his footwear.

Construction of the entire tomb complex, including the fashioning of the figures, began long before Qin Shihuangdi had any reason to think about dying. The groundbreaking took place when he ascended the throne, at the ripe old age of 13.

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