3D-printed terracotta soldiers to serve on people's desks

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China's iconic Terracotta Warriors are expected to be more popular as they stand or kneel on people's desks and dining tables to hold pens and toothpicks, or simply, to cheer people up.

The Warriors have been redesigned and 3D-printed as comic-style miniatures, available in an online store set up late last month on Taobao, China's major online shopping platform.

The online store was set up by staff of the Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum.

Discovered in 1974, the terracotta army is one of China's biggest tourist attractions, located in northwest China's Shaanxi Province. It was built by Emperor Qinshihuang of the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.-207 B.C.).

The miniatures are based on real figures of a general, a kneeling archer and a charioteer.

According to the design team, the general is made to look brave and determined to cheer people up. He holds a banner in his hand that can be engraved with DIY words drafted by customers.

The archer's quiver is made to hold toothpicks, and the empty hands of the charioteer are designed to hold pens.

The designs are aimed to appeal to the increasing number of young visitors.

At peak times, some 65,000 tourists visit the terracotta soldiers each day, among which young people make up an increasingly large proportion, according to Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum.

"We found that a number of visitors, especially young people, wished to take souvenirs with them when leaving the attraction," said Zhang Jintao, head of the cultural industry department of the museum.

Zhang said letting young people bring a piece of history home will help impress them with Chinese culture and history and spread the reputation of the museum as well.

In recent years, Chinese museums are increasingly embracing new methods in promotion. The Palace Museum in Beijing sells its cultural products on Taobao. Last year, a video featuring artifacts from seven Chinese museums went viral on the social media platform Douyin.

Cao Teng, the designer of the 3D-printed terracotta warriors, said modern technology and attractive designs will help museums pass on cultural heritage to the next generation.

"We want to let people feel history when they see these adorable soldiers on the desk," Cao said, adding that compared with life-size human statues, desk ornaments are more approachable and can become a part of people's lives.

To keep modern elements in the miniatures while maintaining the authenticity of culture, Cao and his team spent a month going through dozens of history books looking for inspiration.

Apart from these ivory-white 3D-printed miniatures, various creative products related to terracotta warriors, including fridge magnets and bookmarks, are also sold in the online store.

"Traditional culture is not dead," said Hou Ningbin, curator of Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum. "The latest technologies will help young people become more interested in China's past." 

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