Xian’s Terracotta Warriors Show Their True Colours

The first glimpse of the terracotta army in Xian remains as bright in this Bystander’s mind’s eye as it was those many years ago shortly after they were first put on public display. But it was a monochrome glimpse. So our (real) eye was caught by a feature in the China Daily about a team of German and Chinese archeologists who are bringing more than a touch of colour to the ranks.

They have been excavating the largest of the three pits that surround the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC) since June last year. As well as newly uncovered warriors, including only the 10th figure of a general to be found, announced earlier this summer, they also found traces of the colours the figures were originally painted. That in itself isn’t news; what is is that German technology developed since the 1990s has allowed these to be preserved, unlike the case with the first digs in the late 1970s and early ’80s when the exposure to air oxidize the paint to grey.

Now the original pinks, reds, whites and lilacs of the pottery faces and the vivid purples, reds, greens and blacks of the uniforms (shown below in a snap shot from the China Daily article) can be seen, and imagined in their full colourful glory.


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