Mighty monuments

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2008, 12:00am

Qin's Terracotta Army

In 1974, farmers digging a new water well in Xian, Shanxi province , discovered a buried treasure. They dug up large terracotta statues created during the time of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang.

Qin was born in 260 BC. When he was 21 years old, he killed the king who had been ruling in his name and took control.

Powerful families ruling various parts of China had been at war with one another for centuries, but the boy king defeated them all and united the kingdom.

Qin had big ideas. Declaring himself First Emperor in 221 BC, he took complete control of the country. He standardised the legal system, weights, measures, money, and writing.

He also ordered his people to work on the Great Wall of China. At the same time, he gathered hundreds of artists and told them to make him a terracotta army.

The Terracotta Army consists of some 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 670 horses and various officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians.

So far, about 2,000 statues have been dug up and 1,172 are on display. Each sculpture is life-sized and unique and all are beautifully detailed.

Because the figures are so different from each other, researchers believe they are based on real people who worked for Qin. Unfortunately the pieces on show are deteriorating.

Unless scientists work out how to preserve them, these national treasures won't survive 100 years, never mind 2,000 more.

The Great Sphinx

According to legend, the sphinx is a monster with a lion's body and a human head.

Unlike many fabulous creatures which were tough and strong but were easily outwitted by human heroes, the sphinx was said to be extremely intelligent.

In ancient Greek stories, the winged sphinx of Boeotian Thebes - a city near Athens - terrorised travellers by demanding they answer a riddle. If they got it wrong, the sphinx would kill them.

The Boeotian Thebes Sphinx asked: 'What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?'

When the answer was eventually worked out by Oedipus, a prince of Athens, the sphinx was so upset it killed itself. (Can't figure it out? Check page 7 for the answer!)

There are a lot of sphinx carvings and statues all over southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia, but the most famous of all is a sculpture at Giza in Egypt. The Great Sphinx stands in front of the Pyramid of King Khafre who ruled about 2575-2465 BC.

Some believe the sphinx's face is a portrait of this king. In Arabic, the name of the statue is The Father of Fear.

This statue is 73.5 metres long, 20 metres high and 6 metres wide. Carved from one rock, it is the oldest and largest single-stone statue in the world.

Sadly, the Great Sphinx is missing its nose.

According to Egyptian writers, it was broken off in 1378 by Muhammad Sa'im al-Dahr.

He was a religious fanatic who objected to local people praying at the site. He was hanged for the offence.