Sat, Oct 29, 2016 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: Questions on origin of Terra-cotta Army spark anger

AFP, XIAN, China

Nickel points to the rise of empires in central Asia before the Qin Dynasty, with the Achaemenids in Persia followed by Alexander the Great and the Seleucids.

“When I look at the map of Eurasia, what the Chinese do fits perfectly in the big picture,” he said.

However, basing theories about transmission of cultural ideas on stylistic similarities in objects fails to convince some Chinese scholars, he acknowledged.

“This is an argument that works mainly in Europe and America,” Nickel said.

In China, researchers rely more on textual evidence for proof, and so were “very hesitant to believe there were interactions before the mid second century BC, when the Chinese emperor of the Han Dynasty sent an envoy to central Asia,” he said.

The idea of early Sino-Western exchanges threatens to undermine a cornerstone of Chinese identity: the Qin Dynasty — while brutal in many respects, with book burnings and executions of literati — laid the foundation for China as a unified nation state that has persisted for two millennia.

“That is the moment when China is being made,” Nickel said. “Saying there is such a link, it always brings up memories of colonialism, of Western domination of East Asia, which is totally understandable.”

Zhang insisted the disagreement was based on academic rigor.

“If he was an archeologist we could discuss this issue,” he said. “Archeologists put more importance on historical documents and unearthed objects.”

Li Xiuzhen, another academic at the tomb, told reporters that while there might have been cultural contact, that did not imply influence and the warriors were completely Chinese.

“The Terracotta Army is unique in the world,” she said, adding that it was the “creation of the Qin people.”

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