Kneeling Archer

Pit 2, Lishan Necropolis, Xi'an

Differences in hairstyle, clothing, armor, and posture indicate each warrior's military specialty and rank. This beautifully-detailed, kneeling, armored figure originally held a crossbow like the standing archer on the previous page.

The technique of creating these figures drew on millennia of Chinese pottery-making, including the manufacture of molds for bronze casting. The warriors were built in a kind of assembly-line, from the bottom up. First came the feet, and if applicable the base (plinth) they rested on, cast as one unit. Then solid legs were assembled onto the feet. Next came a hollow torso, made of coiled clay on a wooden frame, and hand-finished to indicate details of armor and costume. Hollow arms were assembled to the torso, and terminated in solid hands. Finally, the head was cast in two pieces (front and back), and attached to complete the figure, which was then detailed, fired in a kiln, and painted.

The strong, life-like faces of these statues have led some people to suppose they are portraits of individuals, although this cannot be known for certain. Each face was formed on one of twenty-four different molds, and then hand-finished with wonderfully individual artistic details -- like mustaches and ears, for example, no two of which are the same! Armies throughout history have sought to "mold" their individual soldiers into a unified fighting force: here the bodies show us the soldier, while the faces show us the human.