nonfiction nuggets…an astounding treasure, an army of stone

The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China, written by Jane O’Connor

One spring day, in a field in northern China, three farmers attempting to dig a well strike…something hard…with their shovels.  Clearing away the dirt, the farmers find the pottery head of a man.  Incredible.  Life-like.  What is it doing there?  The farmers know enough to report their find to a local official and soon archaeologists arrive to check the site.  What they find is one of the most dramatic discoveries of modern times.  Buried underground, in vast pits, lies an entire, underground, life-size, terra cotta army.

The figurines have been resting there,  forgotten, for about two thousand years.  7,500 soldiers in knee-length robes and armor, weighing hundreds of pounds each, all facing east.  Amazingly, no two faces are alike.  There are young soldiers and older officers.  Weary faces and eager faces.  Horses and archers; swords, daggers, and battle-axes, still razor sharp.  The army was put there to guard the tomb of an ancient Chinese emperor, Qin Shihuang.

Jane O’Connor has written a riveting account of this emperor’s tyrannical, cruel reign, his elaborate preparations for death, and the phenomenal work created by artisans hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, and buried beyond human memory until 1974.  Many outstanding photos and reproductions allow us to see the stunning figurines, the massive burial pits, and more.  O’Connor writes vivid prose, crammed with striking description and intriguing story.  Curious kids as young as 8 could readily listen to this book and be amazed.

Though I read this book with my kids quite a few years ago, I’m especially excited about it again because the Minneapolis Institute of Arts just announced a special exhibit next fall featuring 10 sets of these terra cotta warriors and horses, as well as scads of precious ornaments and artifacts from the tomb.  Those of you from Minnesota can find out more here.

And here’s an Amazon link to this fascinating book:  The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China