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3D printing brings the Terracotta Warriors to life

The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE with the purpose of protecting the emperor in his afterlife.

The Qinshihuang Terracotta Warriors, which are considered as one of the eight wonders of the world, have vividly portrayed a variety of characters with certain personalities. Its vigorous and refined style, full of touching artistic charm, is a sign of the maturity of ancient Chinese formative art. It not only inherited the Chinese ceramic sculpture tradition since the Warring States Period, but also laid the foundation for the prosperity of formative art in the following dynasty like Tang Dynasty. It played a role in linking the past and the future. It was known as the “eighth miracle of the world” and the “treasure of ancient spiritual civilization”.

Most of the terracotta warriors and horses are made by pottery smelting and firing. The prototype is made with a pottery mold, and then covered with a layer of fine mud for processing and painting. Some are burned first and then joined, and some are burned first. Even heat, simple color and high hardness. In each process, there is a different division of labor and a strict working system, making sure a fine finished turn out.

The original terracotta warriors and horses had bright and harmonious paintings. During the excavation process, it was discovered that some of the pottery warriors still retained their bright colors when they were first unearthed. However, after being unearthed, they were oxidized by oxygen and the color disappeared in less than ten seconds and turned into white ash. All you can see now is the remaining traces of color painted painting. [1]

Author’s notes:

Compared with traditional manual mold restoration, 3D printing provides accurate reference for cultural relics restoration or reconstruction, and at the same time reduce secondary damage caused by high-frequency contact with cultural relics, restore the artistic value of cultural relics to the greatest extent, and avoid human Historical memory was obliterated. In the future, as the 3D printing industry chain becomes more and more perfect, 3D printing and 3D scanning technology will play a greater value in the protection of cultural relics. 

The old way of interpreting history to students in the form of written narration, students can only understand history through imagination, and it is difficult to leave a deep impression. Nowadays, Anet Education Department combines 3D printing + cultural relics and archaeology teaching methods, allowing students to use 3D software to build historical sites data models, and use 3D printers to reproduce ancient sites prototypes. This process not only provides auxiliary teaching props for history courses. , But also greatly cultivate students’ innovative thinking and practical ability.


 Sima Qian – Shiji Volume 6 《史记·秦始皇本纪》 Original text: 始皇初即位,穿治郦山,及并天下,天下徒送诣七十余万人,穿三泉,下铜而致椁,宫观百官奇器珍怪徙臧满之。令匠作机驽矢,有所穿近者辄射之。以水银为百川江河大海,机相灌输,上具天文,下具地理。以人鱼膏为烛,度不灭者久之。二世曰:”先帝后宫非有子者,出焉不宜。” 皆令从死,死者甚众。葬既已下,或言工匠为机,臧皆知之,臧重即泄。大事毕,已臧,闭中羡,下外羡门,尽闭工匠臧者,无复出者。树草木以象山。

Translation: When the First Emperor ascended the throne, the digging and preparation at Mount Li began. After he unified his empire, 700,000 men were sent there from all over his empire. They dug down deep to underground springs, pouring copper to place the outer casing of the coffin. Palaces and viewing towers housing a hundred officials were built and filled with treasures and rare artifacts. Workmen were instructed to make automatic crossbows primed to shoot at intruders. Mercury was used to simulate the hundred rivers, the Yangtze and Yellow River, and the great sea, and set to flow mechanically. Above, the heaven is depicted, below, the geographical features of the land. Candles were made of “mermaid”‘s fat which is calculated to burn and not extinguish for a long time. The Second Emperor said: “It is inappropriate for the wives of the late emperor who have no sons to be free”, ordered that they should accompany the dead, and a great many died. After the burial, it was suggested that it would be a serious breach if the craftsmen who constructed the tomb and knew of its treasure were to divulge those secrets. Therefore, after the funeral ceremonies had completed, the inner passages and doorways were blocked, and the exit sealed, immediately trapping the workers and craftsmen inside. None could escape. Trees and vegetation were then planted on the tomb mound such that it resembled a hill.

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