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Terracotta Civil Servants and Acrobats

The Terracotta Army, otherwise known as the “Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses” first came to light when they were discovered on March 29, 1974 by a group of well digging farmers. They are believed to be sculptural depictions of the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of unified China, assembled to ensure his passage and continual protection in the afterlife.

Recent digs have revealed that in addition to the clay soldiers, Qin Shi Huangdi's underground realm, presumably a facsimile of the court that surrounded him during his lifetime, is also populated by delightfully realistic waterfowl, crafted from bronze and serenaded by terra cotta musicians. The emperor's clay retinue includes terra cotta officials and even troupes of acrobats, slightly smaller than the soldiers but created with the same methods. "We find the underground pits are an imitation of the real organization in the Qin dynasty," says Duan Qingbo, head of the excavation team at the Shaanxi Provincial Research Institute for Archaeology. "People thought when the emperor died, he took just a lot of pottery army soldiers with him. Now they realize he took a whole political system with him."

The area around the Qin Shihuang mausoleum has more than 180 excavation sites. The most famous, the Terracotta warriors site, is just one of them. Another site which is being explored and restored is called the "Baixi" site, which means acrobatics.
The Baixi site was discovered in June, 1999. It's at the south-east corner of the Qin Shihuang mausoleum, covering an area of 800 square meters.
Compared with the world-known Terracotta warriors site, "Baixi" site is a lot different.
While the clay figurines in the Terracotta warriors site all wear helmets and armour, those discovered at the "Baixi" site are all topless. Some even have "beer bellies", while others are very slim. The clay figurines also come in hundreds of different poses.

These acrobatics figures, though being crushed into pieces, are recognizable on the whole. At present, three pieces have been repaired and marked No.1, No.3 and No.5. They are naked from the waist up and wear thick short skirts. Their faces were painted light pink. It is believed that they are probably the acrobats who played wrestling, weight lifting, dancing and other performances.

Measuring 5.7 feet tall, the No .1 acrobatics figure attract more attention. Its left hand holds the right wrist and the arms crossed before the belly. The No.3 acrobat is tough and brave. Measuring 6.2 feet tall, it has strong muscles on the chest and arms, the belly slightly bulged, the right arm lifts uplifted, the left thumb put into the waist belt, the left leg bent forward and the right foot steps on the floor heavily. The strongest and tallest one is No.5 acrobat. It is about 6.6 feet tall. The two hands put across the belly. Between the left arm and left ribs, there is a trail of a cylindrical thing. It was decayed through years, but in fact, it is supposed to be a long wooden column.

From the gestures, dressings and expressions, we can find the differences between the acrobatics figures and those severe-looking terracotta warriors. The discovery of these figures adds a new group to the Qin terracotta warriors; shows us the colorful acrobatical art and the entertainment culture in the Qin royal court.

Baixi was arose from the primitive society and prospered in the Qin and Han dynasties. It refers to the theatricals and variety shows including pole climbing, wrestling dance, sword-swallowing and tripod lifting, among which the tripod lifting is the most welcomed one. The men of giant strength competed in lifting up the heaviest tripod. A copper tripod was unearthed during this excavation work. It is the heaviest copper tripod discovered in the Qin Mausoleum by far which weights about 467 pounds.

What's more, on the side palace of the Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum, experts discovered a stone dice called Shiboqiong similar to today's dice but with 14 sides. Each side was carved with one character or a number. It is believed that the dice was a play thing of the Emperor Qin Shihuang. But how to play it and how the 14 sides developed into today's six sides, remains unknown.

In the same year, bronze cranes, geese and swans, 31 in total together with several pottery figures were uncovered in a new separate burial pit just outside the mausoleum. These made archaeologists realise that the emperor wanted his entire court with him in the afterlife.

It is F shape and measures 66 yards long. Like many discovers, it is discovered by the villagers in the neighboring Sunma Village when they dug graves. Over 13 bronze birds were unearthed in this pit, which were first discovered in the history of the Qin Mausoleum's archaeology. The large amount of bronze wares in the pit is really a great thrill, the reason is that the bronze wares were rarely discovered in the surroundings of the Emperor Qin Shi huang's mausoleum. Now, facing with such a big surprise, the experts put their much attention on it.

It is a pity that the pit has been destroyed in history from the ruins of the baked-earth and charcoal. There are thirteen pieces of bronze birds in the pit. Through careful examination, the experts have confirmed that two of them are cranes, but the rest of them are hard to be grouped into any birds because they are covered with mud and seriously rusted. The archaeologists consider the pit was probably a pond, these birds are on the two sides of it.

If you familiar with Chinese traditional culture, you will understand the crane’s position is very high, it is the second after the phoenix. Together with the tortoise, it is the king of longevity. Chinese people often use "crane's age" to praise a person's long life. The Emperor Qin Shihuang's long cherished wish to prolong life can be known from two bronze cranes. The crane which was lying on the northern wall in the pit measures 27 inches long and eight inches wide. Its neck has been broken into several pieces, measuring 17 inches long. Its end was curved upward. The other one lying on the southern wall was in a position of drinking water. It measures 25 inches long, eight inches wide and has an eight inches long neck. Both the body surfaces of the two birds are left with the remains of the colorful painting. In order to understand the identification of other birds, the experts will try their best to find out the answer by doing more research.