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The first emperor's dancing birds

By DENG ZHANGYU and QIN FENG in Xi'an | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-02-20 08:16

Kneeling pottery figures were said to be keepers of those waterfowl, who trained the birds to dance to the music. CHINA DAILY

Emperor Ying Zheng took the throne of the Qin state at the age of 13 in 246 BC during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). He defeated a series of rival powers and united China in 221 BC, renaming himself Qinshihuang (or "the first emperor of Qin"). During his rule, the emperor standardized coins, weights and measures, and built an early version of the Great Wall.

His mausoleum is known for its thousands of life-size clay soldiers, each with unique facial expressions. Many of the pits and chambers in the tomb complex remain unexcavated but excavations around the emperor's tomb so far have unearthed lifelike figures of dancers, acrobats and musicians. The bronze water birds discovered in Pit No 7 offer another glimpse into his daily life.

Wang says that the exhibition leaves many questions for archaeologists to answer, such as why only cranes, swans and geese were chosen to accompany the emperor, who made them, and how they were able to make the birds look so lifelike.

"There are still many mysteries about Qinshihuang's mausoleum for us to explore," says Wang.

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