Interview with Photographer Holly Gordon on the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an

A Q&A by Melissa Gordon

PY: We understand you encountered an army of terracotta warriors in China! They were buried with Qin Shi Huang Di, the First Emperor of Qin in 210 BCE and unearthed in the 1970s. We have published a series of photographs you took of these warriors in the Lintong District, Xi’an, Shaanxi province. When did you travel there?

HG: In 2007 I set off to China to see the banks of the Yangtze River before they were washed off the face of the earth. I had no idea I would come face-to-face with such magnitude. The terracotta warriors of Xi’an are one of the most significant archaeological finds of the twentieth century.

PY: What was it like seeing this ancient army from 210 BCE? 

HG: The enormity…the complexity…it still boggles my mind to know that more than 8,000 soldiers each with individual characteristics, 130 chariots, 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses, have been unearthed and are being reconstructed. It is like putting together a three-dimensional puzzle. Originally painted, each warrior is life-sized and the generals are larger. This massive project took forty years to complete with a work-crew of 700,000 and was finished two years after Qin’s death.

PY: What made you want to submit to Poor Yorick

HG: Writing about this personal discovery and submitting my photographs to Poor Yorick is helping me grasp what I stumbled upon during my journey through China. I was prepared to photograph the Chinese landscape and evidence of twentieth-century progress. I did not expect to come face-to-face with an archaeological treasure. To think that a farmer tilling the soil in 1974 came upon a clay chard that has led to something so monumental is boggling. I thought it would be a neat contribution to this online magazine.

As I understand the purpose of Poor Yorick, it is to bring to light lost objects. China has been a sleeping dragon for eons and holds many secrets and mysteries. Some are lost forever or at least until they are rediscovered or reveal themselves. Experiencing the terracotta warriors was a huge personal discovery for me, and I want to share it. If we all can’t see it face-to-face, at least Poor Yorick will provide some cyber-awareness.