The cultural legacy brought into India by the Greek army following Alexander the Great might well have influenced the greatest Chinese archaeological finding – the Terracotta Army. The collection of approximately 8000 life-sized human figurines along with chariots and cavalry is believed to have been sculpted in the second century BCE and buried along with Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. It was understood that the army of sculptures would protect the emperor in his life after death.
Recent research claims that the piece of funerary art was influenced by Greek presence in China in the second century BCE. The new theory is being proclaimed by an upcoming documentary film, ‘The Greatest Tomb on Earth: Secrets of Ancient China’. If proved true, it will push back the date of interaction between Europe and China by approximately 1500 years.
The campaign led by Alexander the Great to India had left behind a fine cultural tradition in the form of Greco-Buddhist art. The foundation of this artistic practice paved the way for the first point of contact between the cultures of the West and the East. But the new research claims that Greek artistic tradition did not just influence the sculpting of the Terracotta army, but also that in all probability Greek artists supervised its creation in China in person.
As reported by the Independent, Professor Lukas Nickel, chair of Asian art history at Vienna University, said: “I imagine that a Greek sculptor may have been at the site to train the locals.”
The first piece of evidence for such a claim comes from the finding of European DNA at the Xinjiang province in China dating back to the second century BCE. Second, a number of bronze figurines excavated from the tomb site reveals the usage of a wax technique that was known only in ancient Egypt and Greece.
The new discovery could revise much about the way we understand world history in terms of the contact between nations of the East and West.