Terracotta Army Sparks Controversy, Allegedly Inspired By Greek Art?

First Posted: Nov 26, 2016 02:21 AM EST

It is quite rare for archaeological discoveries in the east to be noticed. However, just recently, the mitochondrial testing done on human remains in Xinjiang, China's westernmost province attracted the attention of the international media. Results suggested that there were already 'Westerners' in China when Qin Shui Hang was the emperor of China.

According to a report on The Conversation, the discovery happened when mitochondrial DNA tests were conducted on human remains from Xinjiang. The timing was also impeccable as the discovery happened just as new and surprising claims were being suggested about Emperor Qin's (the first Emperor of China) own tomb in Shaanxi Province, the most famous tomb for its buried ranks of about 8,000 life-size terracotta warrior sculptures.

In an article in BBC, archaeologist Li Xiuzhen said that the many sculptures found in and around the tomb, including not just the Terracotta Army but also other sculptures of musicians, dancers and acrobats, were "inspired by ancient Greek sculptures and art."

It was also mentioned in the article that the alleged "Greekness" of the army sculpture went viral, but the archaeologist in China (and around the world) did not pay any attention to it. Two weeks after the news broke, Zhang Weixing, head of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum Site Museum, told a news publication that there is "no substantial evidence at all" for contact between ancient Greeks and those responsible for the Qin tombs, Live Science reported.

Meanwhile, Li Xiuzhen even retracted and protested to Xinhua News Agency, China's largest official state press agency, that her words had been taken out of context. "The terracotta warriors," she clarified, "may be inspired by Western culture, but were uniquely made by the Chinese."

She also told Xinhua that her ideas had been misrepresented after being placed alongside those of art historian Luckas Nickel's, who had speculated that "a Greek sculptor may have been at the site to train the locals."

However, why were Xiuzhen's comments very controversial?

For hundreds of years, archaeologists and art historians have been anxious to see the imprint of the Greek's works of art and architecture all over the world. But this view was based on a Eurocentric logic that has always assumed that other civilizations were fundamentally incapable of creating highly technical, impressive and aesthetically pleasing works of art.

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