Time, Place, Medium and Design


Ancient artists created a number of outstanding works of art which could be treated as greatest wonders of the ancient world. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the Terracotta Army and theColossus of Rhodes, which are two masterpieces of the ancient art that reveal the great skillfulness of ancient sculptures and architects. In actuality, these two works of art were created in approximately the same time but in totally different parts of the world, by different artists with a different mentality and traditions. Nevertheless, these works are, to a significant similar, especially in the context of their social and cultural significance. On the one hand, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Terracotta Army are different in the form and structure, but, on the other hand, these works of art had a great significance for ancient Greek and Chinese culture manifesting the power of civilizations that created these works of art that makes both of them samples of the great advancement of ancient Greek and Chinese art and civilization at large.

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First of all, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the time of the creation of the Terracotta Army and the Colossus of Rhodesis similar. Specialists (Haynes, 311) date the creation of both the Terracotta Army and the Colossus of Rhodesby the 3rd c. BC. In case of the Colossus of Rhodes, the date of creation is more precise and traditionally the erection of the Colossus of Rhodes refers to 282-280 BC (Maryon, 71), whereas the precise date of the accomplishment of the Terracotta Army is unknown. The difference and unclearness of dating of the creation of the Colossus of Rhodes and especially of the Terracotta Army is determined by the time spent on their creation. What is meant here is the fact that the Colossus of Rhodes had been erected in twelve years, whereas the creators of the Terracotta Army had spent about thirty years for the complete construction of the army. Naturally, the long term of the construction prevents contemporary researchers from the precise dating of the accomplishment of both works of art. Nevertheless, specialists agree on the 3rd century as the time of the creation of both works of art.

At the same time, the Colossus of Rhodes was erected after the defeat of Macedonians, who attackedRhodesand failed to invade the island. The monument was constructed on the haul taken from defeated Macedonians and symbolized the unity of Rhodians. As for the Terracotta Army, it was created as a part of the mausoleum complex of the Chinese Emperor of the Qin dynasty. In such a way, the Terracotta Army was created for the funeral of the emperor but it also symbolized the power of the Qin dynasty and glorified the emperor. In such a way, the reason for the construction and the historical background of the creation of both works of art differ but still it relates to significant events in the history of Rhodians and Chinese people. Obviously, the defeat of Macedonians revealed the power ofRhodes, while the Terracotta Army implied the power of the Chinese Emperor who died but still was surrounded and protected by his devoted warriors.

The Terracotta Army presented a huge army, about 8,000 soldiers, who protected the grave of the Chinese Emperor of the Qin dynasty. The artist or artists, who created this army, are unknown but it goes without doubts that ancient Chinese artists had spend a few decades on the construction of the huge Terracotta Army to create warriors using clay and related materials to make the army look vividly and realistically. The Terracotta Army was comprised of soldiers, cavalry, chariots, officials, acrobats, and musicians. In such a way, the Terracotta Army was practically an identical replica of the real army of the time of Qin Shi Huang. It is important to lay emphasis on the fact that, according to ancient resources, the Emperor insisted on the creation of original statutes which should not be similar to each other. At first, researchers believed that the statutes were absolutely different. However, recent researchers have revealed the fact that artists, who created the Terracotta Army used about ten basic forms, which laid the foundation to the 8,000 statues which sculptures modified using clay to make each soldier different from others. The creation of such a huge army took over thirty years. To facilitate the process of creation of the huge Terracotta Army the sculptures created separate body parts which were later assembled to create individual figures of soldiers. In such a way, sculptures managed to create the army relatively fast.

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Furthermore, the army was positioned in the military order as if it was about to start military actions. In such a way, ancient sculptures attempted to reproduce the original army and to position it in such a way that it could protect the emperor in the afterlife. In this respect, it should be said that the religious concerns were probably very significant in terms of the creation of the army. What is meant here is the fact that the Terracotta Army was a virtual guardian of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang. In all probability, the creation of the Terracotta Army was determined by religious concerns because the presence of a huge army surrounding the mausoleum of the emperor creates the impression of the protection of the emperor from some evil forces which may threaten him in the afterlife. In this regard, the detailed reproduction of real warriors and the entire army can be easily explained by religious considerations and by the desire of the emperor to get the full protection from evil powers and some threats in his afterlife.

As for theColossus of Rhodes, the project was commissioned by the Rhodian sculpture Chares of Lindos. The sculpture had worked on this project for twelve years and accomplished it successfully. To build the huge statue, ancient workers cast the outer bronze skin parts. The base was made of white marble, and the feet and ankle of the statue were first fixed. The structure was gradually erected as the bronze form was fortified with an iron and stone framework. At this point, the creator of theColossus of Rhodesfaced the problem of reaching the higher parts. Chares of Lindos tackled the problem successfully. To reach the higher parts, an earth ramp was built around the statue and was later removed as theColossus of Rhodeswas accomplished. The accomplishedColossus of Rhodeswas the huge statue that stood about33 mhigh. In that time, the colossus was one of the greatest achievements of ancient architecture and sculpture. However, unlike, the Terracotta Army that had survived to present days, theColossus of Rhodeswas ruined in 56 years. The earthquake that struck at Rhodes ruined theColossus of Rhodes, which fell and lied in the harbor but it still impressed people with its magnitude and colossal size. In fact, it is only in 654 AD, Arabs, who invaded Rhodes, dissembled the remains of the Colossus of Rhodes and sold them to a Jew fromSyria. According to some sources (Maryon, 82), the fragments had to be transported toSyriaon backs of 900 camels. In such a way, theColossus of Rhodeshad vanished but its glory persisted for centuries.

The Colossus of Rhodes symbolized the unity of Greeks and inhabitants ofRhodes. At the same time, this unity was very important in the historical context, when theColossus of Rhodeswas erected. To put it more precisely, ancient Greeks were united by the common culture and traditions but they were separated politically because Greek city-states attempted to preserve their independence. However, their independence raised the risk of invasion by foreign powers and the success of Rhodians in the struggle against Macedonians was very important because it revealed the true power of Greeks. In such a situation, theColossus of Rhodeserected on the money received from the defeat of Macedonians symbolized the power of Greeks and united them.

In this respect, the Terracotta Army performed the unifying function as well. However, the Terracotta Army had a different ground for the unity of Chinese people. In fact, the Terracotta Army glorified the emperor above all. At this point, it is important to lay emphasis on the role of the Emperor in the Chinese society in the 3rd century BC. In fact, the Chinese Emperor personified the absolute power in the country and he was perceived as a father of Chinese people, whose authority was undisputable. Naturally, the Emperor was very important for Chinese people and he symbolized the unity of Chinese people. Therefore, the Terracotta Army protected the Emperor after his death in the afterlife and symbolized his power inChina. Chinese people could not help from admiring the Terracotta Army and, simultaneously, they paid their respect to the deceased Emperor, whose Mausoleum the Army protected. Therefore, the power of the Chinese Emperor manifested through the Terracotta Army and united Chinese people.

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On the other hand, it is still possible to speak about the difference of the two works of art. First of all, it is important to lay emphasis on the principal difference between theColossus of Rhodesand the Terracotta Army, the difference which reveal the antagonistic views in the philosophy of ancient Greeks and Chinese people. What is meant here is the fact that theColossus of Rhodesis the manifestation of Hellenistic individualism, whereas the Terracotta Army is the manifestation of collectivism which is typical for ancient Chinese culture as well as for the contemporary Chinese culture. TheColossus of Rhodesis a statute depicting the power of a human being, the natural beauty of human body and demonstrates the genius of its creators through the huge size of the statue and complexity of its erection. Symbolically, even the name of the sculpture is well-known that is another manifestation of the ancient Greek individualism because it reveals the extent to which the role of an individual was important for ancient Greeks. In stark contrast, the Terracotta Army represents the army constructed of ten duplicates, which were modified to bring in some individual features to each warrior. However, the overall effect of the Terracotta on the audience is the formation of the impression of a huge body consisting of thousands of warriors assembled in one place to protect their emperor. Even the names of artists, who created the Terracotta Army are unknown. Instead of one huge statue like the Colossus of Rhodes, ancient Chinese artists created thousands of small statues which served for the purpose of the glorification of the power of the ancient Chinese Emperor, a symbol of the absolute power inChinaand the father of Chinese people. In such a way, Chinese collectivism contrasts to ancient Greek individualism. In fact, the Colossus of Rhodes is the statue of Helios, the ancient Greek God, who was a patron of theIslandofRhodes. In this regard, the statue of Helios symbolizes the power of Greeks but, implicitly, it symbolizes the individual power of the god, who protected the island from Macedonian invasion. In such a way, the individualism-oriented ancient Greek culture differs consistently from the collectivism-oriented Chinese culture.

Furthermore, the size of the Colossal of Rhodes and the Terracotta Army is another issue that makes the two works of art quite different. In fact, artists used different approaches to show the greatness of Greek and Chinese people. Greeks preferred to construct a solid, huge statue, whereas Chinese artists preferred to re-construct the real army in almost real size but used thousands of statues. The realism of the Terracotta Army is impressing, whereas the huge theColossus of Rhodesis impressing due to its size.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that theColossus of Rhodesand the Terracotta Army are masterpieces of ancient Greek and Chinese art respectively. These works mark the advancement of ancient Greek and Chinese art and the genius of ancient artists, who created both works. TheColossus of Rhodesand the Terracotta Army were created in the same epoch but in totally different places. Nevertheless, these works have some similarities. For instance, they symbolize the unity of Greek and Chinese people but they use different techniques and approaches to show this unity that makes the two works of art different from one another.






Works Cited

Debainne-Francfort, Corrine. The Search for Ancient China. Discoveries.New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.

Dillon, Michael. China: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary. Durham East Asia series.Richmond,Surrey: Curzon, 1998.

Haynes, D. E. L. "Philo of Byzantium and the Colossus of Rhodes" The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 77.2, 1957, pp. 311-312.

Kinoshita, Hiromi. Jane Portal. ed. The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army.London:BritishMuseum, 2007.

Ledderose, Lothar. "A Magic Army for the Emperor". Ten Thousand Things: Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art. The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts.Princeton,NJ:PrincetonUniversity Press, 2000.

Maryon, Herbert. "The Colossus of Rhodes" The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 76, 1956, pp. 68-86.

Perkins, Dorothy. Encyclopedia of China: The Essential Reference to China, Its History and Culture.New York: Facts on File, 1999.