Emperor’s Ghost Army Gives Audiences A Shocking, Surprising Look At China’s Terracotta Warriors

Courtesy: PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Ever since its original discovery in 1974, the terracotta army of emperor Qin Shi Huang Di has marveled people the world over.  From archaeologists to everyday people, the 2,200 year-old army has stood silent in the emperor’s massive underground mausoleum.   Even four decades after the army’s initial discovery, many questions have remained about the army.  Why was it built?  How was it constructed?  Was it built there in the mausoleum or moved there?  What did it look like originally?  Now thanks to PBS and its hit science-based series NOVA, at least some of those questions are finally being answered in NOVAEmperor’s Ghost Army.  Those answers in question are just a fraction of what makes NOVAEmperor’s Ghost Army such a worthwhile watch for any lover of history.  The study on the weaponry provided to the silent standing army is another piece of the program that will really surprise audiences.  Last but hardly least interesting in this program is the revelation concerning the human cost of building the army.  The information shared in regards to the human cost is shocking.  From the history behind the statues and their purpose to the story of their real weapons to the human cost, all three aspects of this episode of NOVA show once again why PBS is the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on television.

PBS’ NOVA has shown time and again throughout its time on TV why it has remained so popular among audiences.  It has covered so many different topics throughout its life all without allowing itself to fall victim to the trappings of so many other history based series on television’s commercial networks.  NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army is no exception to that rule.  It proves this primarily through the information provided throughout the program, starting with explanations of the terracotta army’s creation and its cultural significance.  The program answers a number of questions that have puzzled researchers and others ever since the “army” was first discovered some forty-years ago.  Audiences learn that China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang Di (after whom China is named) had the army (and his mausoleum) constructed well before his death.  The obvious intention was for his afterlife, which is in itself interesting to consider as that sounds very much like Egyptian culture.  Audiences learn in watching the program that the army was built as a means to protect the emperor from his enemies even in the afterlife.  Just as interesting to note is that through research, it is revealed that no two warrior statues look the same.  The fact that such painstaking efforts were taken by laborers to send such a grand “force” along with the emperor into his afterlife is incredible.  Just as incredible is how the warriors were built and the revelation that they were even fully painted and designed in their original creation.  While the Pharoahs of Egypt made sure people remembered them eons after their deaths, they didn’t go to such lengths as Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di.  It’s quite the statement to his view of himself in regards to his place in history.  And that along with all of the other information shared on the “army” in whole is only the starting point of what makes NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army such an interesting feature.

The overall information shared in regards to the emperor’s “army” is an eye opener for anyone that has ever had any interest in its history and its legend.  The history presented about the terracotta warriors is itself an eye opener.  Even more of an eye opener is the revelation that the emperor was so serious about his “army of the afterlife” that he even made sure the warriors were armed with real weapons.  Audiences will learn in watching the program that the halberds, crossbows, and others were not just ceremonial.  They were the real deal.  They were meant to take down any enemies of the emperor even in the afterlife.  Again, even the greatest pharoahs of Egypt didn’t go to such lengths in preparing for life after they left their bodies.  That and the discussion on the warriors’ cultural significance are together the starting point for a whole other discussion-a dsicussion on the emperor himself and what would lead him to go to such lengths.  It’s yet another reason that NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army proves to be another wonderful addition to PBS’ hit science-based series.

The history of the famed terracotta warriors and their cultural significance prove to be more than a little bit enlightening.  The revelation concerning the warriors’ weaponry is even more eye-opening.  As if that isn’t enough, audiences will be shocked to learn of the human cost of making the emperor’s army.  It is revealed that the workers, which included both women and children, were governed with an iron fist.  Even the slightest error in the production of the warriors and their weaponry was allegedly punished harshly.  The workers were even forced to sign their names to each weapon solely for the purpose of accountability.  It made it easier to trace back who made each weapon if any weapon was imperfect.  As if the very creation of the army and its weaponry wasn’t enough to present the emperor as a figure with a god complex, then this factor most certainly drives home that thought.  It heightens even more the mystery around the emperor and makes even more worthwhile the discussion on an episode of NOVA that focuses solely on him.  It is that much of an accent to the presentation in whole.  Together with the discussions on the warriors themselves and their weaponry, it makes for a good final discussion point for another episode of NOVA that every lover of history will enjoy.

NOVA: Emperor’s Ghost Army is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=50703636&cp=&kw=emperors+ghost+army&origkw=emperor%27s+ghost+army&sr=1.  More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline

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2 thoughts on “Emperor’s Ghost Army Gives Audiences A Shocking, Surprising Look At China’s Terracotta Warriors

  1. I wonder how this video was made. It’s a great film, but where in China today IS this ghost army and its museum? I assume archeologists in both China and Britain worked on this film together. Perhaps I missed the information about its making.

    • I don’t recall the documentary necessarily mentioning where the army is today. I’m led to believe that the army is in Xian, china today. I could be wrong. But it would seem that’s where it likely is now. Anyone with any extra information is definitely welcome to share it.

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