The Terracotta Warriors: a figment of the imagination?

Published 03 March 2014

Qinshihuang2In 1974, in Shaanxi Provence in China a group of farmers digging a well discovered something truly extraordinary. They had stumbled upon what came to be known as the Terracotta Warriors.

8000 warriors, chariots and horses, made from terracotta and arrayed in battle formation, formed part of the great mausoleum of the First Emperor of China, who reigned over 2000 years ago. As many as 700,000 workers spent 40 years constructing this monument to the great Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

The most striking thing about these warriors – their numbers aside – was that each warrior was an individual, with his own features and bodily posture.  The obvious conclusion was that each warrior was a sculptural portrait of one of the Emperor’s actual warriors. We were looking, it seemed, at real warriors…

But were we?

Dr Tony Lynch from the University of New England argues against this commonly held assumption, and instead puts forward the theory that the warriors are simply a figment of the Emperor’s fertile and self-absorbed imagination.

“What we have is not a real army, but the Emperor’s dream army. Understood in this way we can, for the first time, make sense of the most extraordinary state builder in all of human history.

“The First Emperor was convinced he was immortal, but he spent virtually all of his life  – and the lives of millions of his subjects – constructing the largest Mausoleum in China and the largest underground Mausoleum in the world.”

Dr Lynch will be discussing his research at a public seminar to be held at UNE on Friday 7 March at 9:30-10:30am in the Lecture Theatre A3 of the UNE Arts Building.

All are welcome, and a morning tea will follow.

Enquiries may be directed to Karin von Strokirch: