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The Statue of Kneeling Archer---The Emperor's Eternal Warrior
1,The statue of kneeling archer
The Statue of Kneeling Archer: The Emperor's Eternal Warrior
Approx. 210 BC
Qin Dynasty (221 BC --- 206 BC)
Museum of the Terra-cotta Worriors and Horses of Qin Shihuang, Xi'an, PRC
: Qin Shihuang (The first Emperor of China)
The statue of Kneeling Archer was made of terra-cotta. It was an imitation of the crossbow soldier belonged to the guardian army of
(秦始皇), the first emperor of China.
This statue was excavated in 1994 from No.2 Pit, which, along with the other three pits that included the statues of the standing archers, infantry, cavalry,
3. Pit No.2
and chariot, constitutes the underground phalanxes that guarded the Qin Shihuang's tomb located in Lingtong, Shan'xi Province, China. (
Qin Shihuang conquered the other six dukedoms, built up the first centralized government in Chinese history, and terminated the feudal system that had dominated China for 800 years.
As a ruler, Qin Shihuang was without equal. As a human being, however, he was obsessed with a fear of death. His extraordinary burial and its majestic sacrificed Terra-cotta Army represent the Emperor’s fear of death and pursuit of perpetual life. The discovery of the terra-cotta army reveals that Qin Shihuang ordered to manufacture estimated to be more than 8000 statues, believing that these warriors would follow his will to guard him, as the army did in his lifetime. (Ciarla,2005,pp. 30-35)
13. Layout of Pit No.2
The Chinese used their knowledge of archaelogy to uncover the warriors in the best way possible. The diagram of Pit No. 2 shows the location of the different types of terra-cotta warriors and where they were positioned. Each figure was placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty. As depicted in above layout, the archers are positioned together in the upper right hand section of the pit with the kneeling archers marked in yellow surrounded by the standing archers marked in blue.
14. Layout of Emperor's tomb and Bingma Yong Pits
The Bingma Yong pits are located 1.5km east from the tomb and are about 15-20 feet deep below ground level and was constructed with the figures placed in corridors or rooms. The outside walls of the tomb complex are as if placed in a way as if to protect the tomb from the east, where all the conquered states lay. They are built solidly with rammed earth walls and ground layers as hard as concrete. Pit No. 1, 230 meters long, contains the main army with an estimated of 8,000 figures. It has 11 corridors and paved with small bricks with a wooden ceiling supported by large beams and posts. This design was also used for the tombs of noblemen and resembled palace hallways. In order to make the wooden cielings waterprood, they were covered with reed mats and layers of clay and later mounded with more soil making it raise above ground level. Pit No. 2 includes calvary and infantry units as well as war chariots and Pit No. 3 is the command post, with high ranking officers and a war chariot.
With crossbow in hand, kneeling archers were positioned at the center of the projecting sub-array of No.2 Pit. This sub-array was composed by standing archers and kneeling archers that total 332 pieces. The standing archers were arranged at the periphery of the sub-array and the kneeling archers were disposed inside them. The whole sub-array protrudes from the phalanx toward east. The rest parts of the phalanx are cavalry, chariot, and infantry arrays.(Wang, 1994, pp. 13-20)
All the kneeling archers are basically similar but with slight detail variations.
The archer rests on the right knee and his left knee raises. His right arm is held toward right thigh with open hand ready to hold the crossbow. The left arm put on the left knee and grasp another part of the crossbow.This posture is a "ready to lanuch" positon. Picture 15 depicts the status that the archer is launching the arrow.
15. Launching the arrow
The archer's head is held firm and his eyes look directly ahead, reflecting the impressions of concentration and discipline
. His hair is tied in a decorative plait and then coiled into a bun standing on the back of the head.
The archer wears plated armour on the upper half of the body together with shoulder pieces. The battle robe beneath with wrinkles and folds rests over the legs. One significant detail in the sculpture is the fine stitches in the sole of the shoes, demonstrating a strict mode of naturalism and presenting to viewers a strong sense of life.
6.Reconstruction of crossbow
5.Stitches of the sole
The archer’s crossbow, which was primary made from wood, now has decayed during the underground era of 2000 years. A reconstruction of the crossbow has been made based on the bronze accessory remains and impression in the surrounding earth of the pit. The original crossbow is 71.6cm in length, with a groove at the front in which the arrow fixed and the bronze trigger at the rear. (Capon,1983,pp. 100-105)
7. Statue with residua of pigments
The original artwork was painted with realistic colors, but the layers of color stuck to the earth that had covered them for thousands of years. However, in some cases even though some statues had preserved their colors, after the separation from the soil, the pigments started to fade and detach. Based on the literature search and tiny traces remain on the statue, an illustration of the artwork has been reconstructed, presenting the initial appearance of the artwork. The Chinese and German scientists have found the cause of the detachment, which involved the use of some kinds of organic pigments and the procedure of the lacquer preparation.(Capon,1983,pp. 100-105)
Formal and Contextual Analysis
In China, human sacrifice was prevalent during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. This kind of imbrutement, actually, was adopted broadly during primal history of human being, basically based on religious or ritual purpose. In ancient China, the sacrifice was regarded as part of an aristocratic funeral service. The purpose is to provide companionship for the deceased in afterlife.
Things changed, however, during the reign of
Duke Xian (秦献公)
. Facing the lack of human power in both agriculture and military force, Duke Xian officially abolished the cruel ritual in 384 BC, to save young men. The new regulation was extremely welcomed by the subjects, and as a compensation and substitution, clay and wooden statues were used by the aristocrats to accompany their afterlife.
On the other side, military plays a very important role is Qin’s culture, society, and history, and kneeling archer is an essential arm force confronting the cavalry.During the Spring and Autumn (春秋) period (722 BC --- 481 BC), Qin lagged behind the other dukedoms primarily in economy, until a series reforms were conducted by its prime minister, a legalist,
. His reforms not only enabled the privatization of the farmland, boosting the economy, but also broke down the hereditary privileges of the aristocracy, granting the plebeians noble identities according to their contributions in warfare. Before the origin of Nationalism during the French Revolution ( Shimko,2008,pp.21-23), Shang Yang’s reforms to Nobility stimulate the civilians’ enthusiasm in warfare. Because the whole dukedom honors civilians who contributed to the war, the plebeians realized that they were fighting not only for the aristocrats but also for their own economic and social benefits. In addition, Qin Shihuang, indifferent to
if not opponent, believes only two doctrines, the military force and the Legalism philosophy (Wood, 2007, pp.57-67). Based on these facts, it is not surprise to discover the soldier-like statues of terra-cotta in Qin Shihuang’s burial site.
Traditionally, China is an agriculture country and, unlike its nomadic neighbors from North, it lacks sufficient rangelands to support high quality and huge quantity of war horses. After the emergence of the cavalry tactic in 307 BC, Chinese infantry, its primary military force, resorted to walls and archers to defend the offense from barbarians or invaders until the sophisticated and reliable gunpowder was widely adopted in 19th century. That the Great Wall and Crossbow appeared in the close periods in China is not just a coincidence. Dukedom of Qin that possesses of the formidable military force values the archers, regarding crossbow tactic as an essential component of the army.
Now we know that this statue is a reflection of then social and culture reality, that is, the war and conquest, and the pursuit of perpetuation.
8. Jade head
The Kneeling archer, together with its thousands of peers, represents the threshold of the naturalism mode in Chinese art history.(Wang, 1994, pp. 423-427)
It is safe to say that before this era, Chinese artworks were created in an idealism mode. For example, the sculpture of “
” was created in Spring and Autumn Period. Although the positions and relations of the facial organs comply with the anatomical rules, the eyes and nose are larger and the neck is longer, than that of a human.
The terra-cotta statues hold very important position in Chinese art history and they have several distinctive features (Wang, 1994, pp. 432-435):
First, they are bigger than the former statues. The statues from the Warring-states period are not only smaller but are also more abstract and simpler. Terra-cotta statues of Emperor Qin Shihuang are the first life sized art forms that history had ever seen. This “big” style looks like a mutation: it appear suddenly during Qin Shihuang’s rein. No transitional style (middle size) has been found yet.
Second, the “big” style is unique. The terra-cotta statues excavated from mausoleum of
Han Jingdi (汉景帝),
the sixth emperor of Han Dynasty (202 BC --- 220 AD), are basically a third as big as Qin Shihuang’s terra-cotta.
The terra-cotta style of Han Dynasty inherited from that of Qin Dynasty. For example, the carriage depiction, treatment of the relationship between generalization and exaggeration, and the skills of plastic work and of color painting are similar. (Wang, 1994, pp. 647)
Compared to contemporaneous Greek sculptures, which were also made in realism mode, the Kneeling archer reveals several similarities and dissimilarities.
9. Venus de Milo
The creation of Greek sculptures, like that of Kneeling archer, obeys the doctrines of realism, but differ in several aspects. The kneeling archer’s limbs and body do not follow a strict scale of human anatomy. Greek sculptures emphasize the scale of body and value the beauty of muscles. There are two distinguished, if not opposite, characteristics between the creation of Greek sculptures and Terra-cotta archer. Greek Sculptures, such as the
Venus de Milo
, display the sense of reality of the cloth while they simplify the representation of hair by carving agglomerate contours. On the contrary, the kneeling archer, as we can see from Picture 4, elaborates the hairstyle yet omits the representation of cloth by engraving succinct wrinkles (Wang, 1994, pp. 439-444).
The motifs of Greek sculptures are varied. Among them are athletic sports, historical affairs, and mythology. From
Venus de Milo
, we see that artistic themes are diversified after hundreds years of development. In China, the terra-cotta statures are just the beginning of the realism style and the motif is confined in military perspective.
10.Apulu, from the roof of the Portonaccio Temple, Veii, Italy, ca. 510-500 BCE
Within the realm of Greek mythology in comparrison to the Terra-cotta warriors lies one of the most important of Olympian deities-
who represents harmony, order, and reason. His most common attribute is the bow and arrow and in Greek-influenced
mythology, Appolo is known as Apulu.
The Kneeling Archer and Apollo are both life like in size with emphasis on thier posture and stance. The Chinese archer is dressed in a detailed uniform made of plated armor on the upper half of his body with what looks like heavy protective shoulder pieces. There can be no mistake in what his role played in society. In contrast, Apollo is seen more as a mythical figure for decorative purposes as he stands barefoot in an almost naked like flowing sense dressed only in a short cloak like tunic with detailed rippling folds shown in a pattern like manner. The archer, in his crouch like stance, once held his most important attribute, the bow and arrow, which can be imagined in the position of both his bending arms and grasping hands ready to take aim and fire if needed. In comparison, the left arm of Apollo with his hand facing downward is assumed to have also carried a bow and arrow but was lost as well over time.Both pieces of artwork are an expression of their own individual character and culture which is highlighted in the differences within their facial expressions and overall liveliness. Both works are life like and life sized. With extraordinary force, huge swelling contours, plunging motion, gesticulating arms, fanlike calf muscles and an animated face; the statue of Apollo displays energy and excitement which is distinctively the characterizing style of Etruscan art. He is moving forward with his left leg pushing off and reaching out while staring out with large eyes and a funny archaic smile. (Kleiner, 2006, pp.156) In contrast, the Chinese archer has an expression of stern seriousness on his face with watchful cautious eyes and a jaw line so tight and rigid. The archer shows more of an understanding of realism in the muscle and bone structure of the human face than that of Apollo with his high cheekbones and scrunched up forehead which creates a very effective compliment to his raised eyebrow. His body is situated in a crouching position with his back straight and body looking very stiff. His left foot can almost be described as one of a ballerina- on the tips of his toes with no relaxed movement. Hair is also a detail in both figures that should not be missed. Apollo's hair style is patterned in a rope like fashion while the Chinese Warrior's hair is skilfully constructed in a careful method to produce a realistic effect. The hair used for each warrior was chosen based on the warriors rank in the army where as the hair during the time of Etruscan Period is routinely displayed in the same style and manner. Both figures were once painted but the pigment of color have faded away over time. Similarily, the heads, arms, legs and torso's of both pieces of artwork were created separately and then casted together to create a united piece of art.
Another work of art that is similar to the Kneeling Archer is the statue of
the Archer. As you can see the statue depicts a man ready to launch an arrow at his target of choice. This statue was created by an Iranian sculptor and follows the laws of realism. Both works of art are life like and represent archers ready for battle. You can tell that they are ready for battle due to their garments; both ar
11. Arash the Archer
e wearing a sort of armor that was used in that specific era. The Chinese warrior's armor covers most of his body protecting him, while the Arash's legs and most of his chest is bare. This may suggest that perhaps Arash did not come into direct contact in his battles. The Chinese warrior was designed to be prepared to protect their king from any attack.
In the statue of the kneeling archer he had a bow and arrow that was made of wood, but it decayed over time. Based on the bow that was reconstructed for the archer, it is quite different then the bow and arrow that Arash holds in his state. Arash's bow is very thin and appears to be flexible and is about half of the length of him. The bow and arrow used be the Chinese warrior is more compact and has the appearance of a crossbow. Being made of wood, it was made separately from the rest of the statue unlike the statue of Arash. Both statues are in a stance that shows they are ready for battle. The position the figures are in is important in both statues, showing emphasizing the fact that they are warriors. The Chinese statue is kneeling preparing to attack and protect his and Arash is standing in a more offensive position with his bow drawn ready to fire at an instance.
12. Trojan Archer from the Temple of Aphaia
In addition to contemporaneous Greek sculptures and the image of Arash The Archer, The Trojan archer from the temple of
hosts similarities to the Statue of Kneeling Archer as well. This full sized sculpture contributed to the colorful change in fifteenth and sixteenth century art of the Renaissance.
This sculpture articulates an image of a Trojan warrior from the Temple of Aphaia on the Greek Island of
posing in a defensive position (similar to the Kneeling Archer) with an aimed bow and arrow in front of his body as if ready for attack. Contrary to the Kneeling Archer, The figure wears a garment covered with a bright and detailed red, yellow, blue, and green diamond pattern. Over this he wears a bright yellow vest inscribed with lions and griffins. A tall yellow headdress with a flower pattern completes the costume. This array of colors the statue possesses brought about change in the vision of art after the creation of
," as well as
s "St. Teresa in Ecstacy." Both artworks, The Kneeling Archer and The Trojan Warrior, present a realistic theme. The Kneeling Archer is posed in a defensive form as is the Trojan Warrior. Each statue presents a realistic experience by mimicking the nature of mankind. Both artworks also represent a theme of retaliation, one reltaliation from fear, the other from war. This theme of retailation is not excluding the meaning and purpose of each creation. The Kneeling archer was created as a shield against the fear of death, and along with the obvious creativity in the Trojan artpiece, it was to made to stand in protection of an approaching enemy. The Trojan Archer from the Temple of Aphaia can be found at The Sackler Museum of Harvard University.
1. Ciarla, Roberto.
The Eternal Army: the terra-cotta soldiers of the first Chinese emperor
Vercelli : White Star : Distributed in the US and Canada by Rizzoli International Publications , 2005.
A book introducing the cultural and historical background knowledge of the terra-cotta soldiers. From the beginning of Qin Dukedom to the ear of Qin Shihuang.
2. Capon, Edmund.
Qin shihuang: terracotta warriors and horses: catalogue to the "Exhibition to the terracotta figures of warriors and horses of the Qin dynasty of China"
International Cultural Corp. of Australia, 1983
An illustrated handbook introducing the relics unearthed from the terra-cotta pits.
3. Wang, Xue Li,
Special studies on qin terra-cotta figures.
San Qin Publishing House, 1994
An archaeological monograph that studies every aspect of Qin Dynasty, such as the social classes, military system, technologies, and aesthetic preference, by analyzing the relics excavated from terra-cotta.
A book telling the stories about the course of excavation, the means that were adopted to protect the relics, and the buildup of the terra-cotta museum.
5. Shimko, Keith.
International Relations: Perspectives and Controversies.
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008
Highlights some of the most pressing issues of the contemporary international system, enabling the reader to think systematically and critically about international affairs.
6. Kleiner, Fred.
Gardner's Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective
. Thomson Wadsworth, 2006.
A comprehnsive guide to the story of western art through a historical, social, religious, economic, and cultural context.
7. Wood, Frances. The First Emperor of China. Profile Books Ltd, 2007
A book introducing Qin Shihuang and his achievements and contribution to China.
1. Museum of the terra-cotta warriors and horses of Qin Shihuang (
The official site for the Museum of the terra-cotta warriors and horses of Qin Shihuang, including a brief guide and services provided through the museum.
2. Terracotta Army, Wikipedia (
Information on the background of the terra-cotta army, construction and gradual decay of the figures, the pits, and photo's of the statues and horses.
3. Qin Shihuang, Wikipedia (
Synopsis of the life of Qin Shi Huang, his legacy, historiography, and his depiction in fiction.
4. Human Sacrifice, Wikipedia (
Description of the act of human sacrifice, including its evolution and context, history by region, prohibition in major religions, and modern day sacrifice practices.
5. Spring and Autumn Period, Wikipedia (
Overview of the Spring and Autumn Period in Chinese history, beginning with the Eastern Zhou Dynasty.
6. Warring States Period, Wikipedia (
Overview of the period of Chinese history from 476 BCE- the unification of China by the Qin dynasty in 221 BCE.
7. Shang Yang, Wikipedia (
Synopsis of the life of Shang Yang, an important statesman of Qin in the Warring States Period of Ancient China, discussing his reforms using the legalist approach and domestic policies.
8. Ife Terracottas, (
Description on the art-historical importance of the Ife Terracotta figures from Africa.
9. Arash the Archer, Tehran Times (
Iran's leading newspaper discusses the myth and unveiling of the staue of Arash the Archer.
10. Sackler Museum of Harvard University, Trojan Archer,
An article from Harvard's Online Gazette with information on the Sackler Museum's exhibition of "God's in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity".
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