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Clay figures come alive in this engaging docu

Mysteries of the Terracotta Warriors, a new feature on the thousands of clay figures buried alongside China's first emperor who ruled over 2,000 years ago, is a welcome exception.
Last Updated : 22 June 2024, 02:37 IST

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Mysteries of the Terracotta Warriors
4/5
Director:James Tovell

Historical documentaries tend to get lost in pedantic detailing and academese. Mysteries of the Terracotta Warriors, a new feature on the thousands of clay figures buried alongside China's first emperor who ruled over 2,000 years ago, is a welcome exception.

The documentary expertly merges reenactment and interviews with archaeologists and researchers. It turns the spotlight on an enduring mystery around the "Manhattan-size" mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, the first Qin Emperor who is credited with unifying China's various provinces and building the Great Wall.

Shortly after the unification, the then 26-year-old king began the ambitious construction of his eventual tomb with convicts "collected" from the provinces doubling up as labourers. The entire complex remained undisturbed till 1974 when a farmer digging a well in the Shaanxi Province came upon a clay head. The Terracotta Army, as they came to be known later, was then discovered much to the world's astonishment —  as many as 8,000 clay soldiers had been created to guard the emperor's massive tomb. For all its grandeur, the Qin dynasty barely lasted 15 years and disintegrated into rebellions and uprisings soon after the first emperor's death. 

A consistently engaging feature, it is heartening to see the care and the passion with which the archaeologists work to unearth long-lost tales of treachery, conspiracy and intrigue. Their dedication is also evidently a testament to how much importance the burial site has to China's history, the details of which remain vague at best for the rest of the world. Another interesting aspect of the documentary is the focus on the artistry of craftsmen and workers who were drafted en masse to create these life-like figures, each with its distinctive features, outfits and expressions. 

If you, like me, enjoy your history with a little bit of mystery and drama thrown in, this makes for a great weekend watch. The one-hour runtime is a plus too. 

(The documentary Mysteries of the Terracotta Warriors, is available to watch in English language on Netflix.)

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Published 22 June 2024, 02:37 IST

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