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The Terra Cotta Army

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John Man is a historian and travel writer with a special interest in China and Mongolia whose list of acclaimed books includes Genghis Khan. He lives in the United Kingdom.


Currently on tour from Santa Ana, CA, to Atlanta, Houston, and Washington, DC, through March 2010, the exhibition The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army (with an alternative title, China's Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of the First Emperor, and a different curatorial approach, at some venues) is cause for rejoicing. These two brilliant and utterly readable books will thrill both those lucky enough to see the exhibition and those who must miss this stunning tour. Emperor Qin shi huang (259-210 BCE) was China's first emperor. As a boy king, he began construction on his tomb; his rule saw many major innovations, including the development of writing and coinage and the construction of the Great Wall. Qin was an outstanding military leader who unified China, but he has been assailed for using forced labor, burning books, and killing scholars. Fast forward to 1974, when farmers digging for water near the emperor's mausoleum discovered pits holding the astonishing figures eventually known to the world as the Terracotta Army. Discovery of this army, which consists of about 8000 warriors, chariots, and horses, has forced us to reexamine the emperor's reputation. With China's First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors, Wood (head, Chinese Dept., British Lib.; The Silk Road) gives us a text that is wonderfully descriptive not only archaeologically but in reassessing the emperor, warts and all. Her book brims with outstanding illustrations. The Terra Cotta Army, by British historian Man (Genghis Khan), reads much like an adventure story that offers fine access to this highly detailed subject. Readers accompany Man as he walks into Pit No. 1 and contributes fascinating information on just how these terracotta figures were shaped in sections, attached, individually detailed, and baked. Like Wood, he questions the information, arguments, and myths that have come down to us regarding Qin's reign, instead offering his own analysis. Royal records and contemporary stone inscriptions are among the primary sources surveyed by both authors, who admit that interpretations will always be a matter of dispute, e.g., does this army represent a kind of repression by the emperor or an acknowledgment of communal talent? These books should be purchased by all libraries, whether or not in the cities lucky enough to get the exhibit. [The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army, published in the U.K. by the British Museum and in the United States by Harvard University Press in 2007, is the exhibition's official companion volume and is also highly recommended. The illustrations include many haunting studio shots of the figures, as well as documentation of the tomb site and extraordinary images of the pits before and after excavation, and the accessible and fascinating text is contributed by experts in the field. End material, including a chronology and glossary of Chinese characters, add to the book's considerable value.--Ed.]--Susan G. Baird, Chicago Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Joy Hog, 8/18/08 "If the tiny tidbits designed for the ADD crowd on NBC merely wet your palette for more, "The Great Wall" is a good place to start." "Tucson Citizen," 8/21/08 "A fascinating history." "The Tucson Citizen," 8/21/08 "A highly readable account." "Acadiana LifeStyle," September 2008 "[A] fascinating book...If you plan to go [to the traveling exhibit], buy this book first." American Author's Association website exciting an accounting of history as it gets!...John Man has a way of making history seem like a novel...Go buy a copy!" "Sun Lakes Splash" "A vivid account of the roots that formed the unique culture of China." "Charleston Post & Courier" "[Man] uses his skills as a travel writer to set the scene and fill it with vignettes...The folk stories and humorous incidents that salt the text prevent the dust of history from obscuring the glory of the story." "Library Journal," 6/15/08 "Brilliant and utterly readable...Reads much like an adventure story that offers fine access to this highly detailed subject." "Roanoke Times," 8/18/08 "[An] engaging foray into Chinese history." "Charleston Post & Courier" "[Man] uses his skills as a travel writer to set the scene and fill it with vignettes...The folk stories and humorous incidents that salt the text prevent the dust of history from obscuring the glory of the story." "Toronto Globe and Mail," 7/19/08 "[Man's] travel journalism evocatively describes the terra cotta warriors as artifacts, and appropriately overwhelms us with their scale...Man's prose attains precision and genuine awe." "Houston Chronicle" China book roundup "Provides essential background reading...Man is a genial guide...learned but not dry." "Augusta Metro Spirit," 6/25/08 "Worthy of praise...The narrative flows with an intricate knowledge...and personal insights that keep the reader flying along a path of discovery." "Roanoke Times" 5/11/0 "If you can't make it to China anytime soon to see the warriors, do the next best thing: Grab a warm cup of tea, sink into your favorite reading spot and open "The Terra Cotta Army" to the preface. And begin."

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