Breakthrough in Terra-cotta Color Preservation Made in Xi'an

With a big breakthrough made in the technique for preserving colored terracotta warriors the Terra-cotta Warriors Museum in Xi'an has for the first time succeeded in keeping eight pieces of pottery figures shine as usual, which, however, used to fade away at the moment of being unearthed.

Since 1990, the museum has been working hard with experts from Bavaria, Germany on the protection of colored drawings on terra-cotta warriors and horses, a nettlesome problem worldwide. By now great achievements have been made in this aspect.

When being discovered most terracotta figures have lost their colorful coatings, peeled off since they were buried long underneath, burned or washed by torrents. Even if some are left, they are so fragile that they fade away so soon as being exposed to air.

To well preserve these colorful figures the museum has made great efforts, together with Germany experts, to study on the composition and painting technique of these warriors and horses and, based on it, made a series of experiments. So far a breakthrough has been scored and for the first time protection is successfully applied to pottery figures newly unearthed on the spot.

The new method has solved the problem quite satisfactorily and is of high value for protection of other cultural relics with colored paintings.

Terracotta Warriors

Some farmers discovered the Terracotta Warriors, located in Xian, Shaanxi Province, in March 1974, while digging a well. According to the on-the-spot measurement after excavation, Vault 1, an underground architectural complex, is 5 meters deep, 230 meters long east to west, and 62 meters wide, north to south, covering an area of over 14,000 square meters. Leading down into the Vault is five slops doorways on each side. At a distance of 20 meters north of Vault 1, from east to west lie Vault 2 and Vault 3. Fire had wrought damages on all the three Vaults with the ground caved in and most pottery warriors, horses and weapons broken.

Besides some bronze swords, curved swords, spears, crossbows, arrowheads etc. used as weapons in actual battles, altogether six thousand pieces of pottery warriors and horses were unearthed from the Vault 1. The unearthed pottery warriors are 1.8 meters high and clay horses, 2 meters long and 1.5 meters high. In the battle array, the vanguard appeared to be formed by three ranks of warriors all facing east, with 70 men in battle attire in each rank. Immediately behind the van is the main body of 38-column formation. On each of the three sides of the main body arrays a single rank of men, all facing out, who looked to be the flank and rear guards of the formation.

(People’s Daily November 27, 2001)

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