My Ancient Chinese Army…

by forrest fenn

Many of the objects in my collection are significant in a very small depiction of world history. Most are more interesting than they are important. Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to remember that each piece represents who we once were in a time that used to be, and that I will never be anything more than its temporary custodian. 


Ancient-Wisdom-Wei-Dynasty-880x293The Wei Dynasty 386 – 535 A.D., was the longest-lived and most powerful of the northern Chinese dynasties. Although it promoted Buddhism, it was a time of great political unrest. Everybody always seemed to be fighting anyone at the same time they were fighting each other.

In 535 the empress murdered the emperor and established her son on the throne. They were unable to soothe the rabid social and cultural turbulence so the people threw both of them into the Yellow River, essentially ending the Wei Dynasty.


Here’s my little Wei army, it numbers ten soldiers in all. Some of them held weapons at one time. I used to have ten more but I traded them for a Kiowa dispatch bag and some other valuable considerations.


These 12-inch terracotta soldiers were excavated in 1909, I was told, and the mud that was on them when they came out of the ground is still present today. To remove it would require disappearing the chalk-like surface colors, mostly black, red and white. Each figure is unique, although it requires a magnifying eye up close to detect the subtle differences. I believe the heads were molded separately and then transformed with clay to present slightly amended facial features.

They are not dissimilar to the famous warriors at Xian who are 600 years older, and life size. They number more than 8,000 strong, and were made to protect the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in his afterlife. I wonder if my little army was buried with me they could act in congruency with my wishes for…aw, probably not.