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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Four: Finding meaning in details > Underground army of terracotta warriors, Xian, China, 2004
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Underground army of terracotta warriors, Xian, China, 2004

Underground army of terracotta warriors, Xian, China, 2004

The vast terracotta armies guarding the underground tomb of Chinaís first emperor occupy several "pits." Pit number one is the largest excavation so far, and sprawls across 16,000 square meters. The soldiers in the front have been restored and placed in their original positions. If you look carefully at the detail within this photograph, you can see that there are piles of broken figures behind them, awaiting eventual reconstruction. And youíll find much more, as well. And thatís why I find this image so fascinating. The closer you study this detail, the more you will discover. There is always great pleasure and satisfaction in studying images depending largely upon detail to work, and this is one of those photographs. I used a wideangle lens to grasp the entire scene, and let my viewers explore it for meaning.

(For even more detail, see a closeup image of some of the broken figures at )

Canon PowerShot G5
1/125s f/4.0 at 7.2mm full exif

other sizes: small medium large original
Phil Douglis23-May-2018 18:27
Thanks, Suella, for your comment on this photograph. These statues are 2,000 years old, yet they still evoke ideas that are very much with us today. -- for example, you say "...they probably did it to show that how big his army was, and that he is not scared of his enemies." Today, countries brandish stockpiles of nuclear missiles at each other. For example, the President of the United States of America told the leader of North Korea, that he is ready to unleash "fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen before..."
suella 23-May-2018 01:11
in my words I think its really cool and how they did the structures that most be tiring making them same by carving it to it most of took like 1 to 9 years to get it done or more we really don't know they probably did it to show that how big his army was and he is not scared of his enemies and when they find his tomb there's
probably even more protecting it to scare even evil spirits
Phil Douglis18-Feb-2006 21:07
Thanks, Eleanor, for adding your thoughts to those expressed by others here. I am thrilled when my images cause my viewers to think seriously about substantive ideas. I feel honored that my image is making you think seriously about "opening your soul" so that you can "bring forth" yourself, and not the person that others might want you to be. I am grateful to you for sharing such a deeply personal feeling with me -- you show me that my images can have worth not only as teaching examples but as triggers to thought that might make others realize things they would not have othewise considered. Thank you, Eleanor, for your candor.
Eleanor 18-Feb-2006 12:12
i believe in the power this art has too, and i do believe in the breath, the air it brings. It has a way of bring amazing compassionate and deep thoughts to my head. I realised thanks to "seriouse about art"s captions that i want, now looking at this picture to realease my soul, but like the soldiers before me it cannot "step out of place" for society is keeping it contained and in line. The art work has made realise that...
We, as are the soldiers are kept in line, our true self our souls are forever trapped but not by cement and stone like these warriors but by society and forever will i try, now, to open my soul, open up and bring forth ME. However hard it , however the struggle.
Phil Douglis18-Feb-2006 00:35
Thanks, Little Angel1592, for letting this image play on your imagination. I am more interested in what happens in the minds of my viewers than I am in my pictures themselves. The picture is simply a catalyst to thought, a starting point, not an end in itself. I leave it to serious viewers such as yourself to make whatever they can out of my images.
serious about art 15-Feb-2006 07:35
I am also drawn to the structure that protecs history. this image is very moving and emotional. also, the texture is ingenious. there is a hiden truth here that i think the artist was very compassionate about and trying to feircley communicate to us. i think we all need to look deeper into this and really think. i think we need to look deep into our souls. please, if you have passion participate with me now. close your eyes and breathe in the fumes. BELEIVE.. BELIEVE!!!!! the power is inside you, you just need to search your soul
Phil Douglis24-Jan-2006 04:31
An ironic observation, Carlos. These figures WERE the government. They were the soldiers of the Emperor. And freedom was an unknown concept at the time. I am glad this image has made you think about the nature of freedom and corruption.
carlos 06-Jan-2006 18:24
i think that they are like united workers against a corrupt and full of criminals gobernment. they are preparing themselves to fight versus the gobernment and they are looking for their freedom
Phil Douglis25-Dec-2004 22:46
Thanks for coming back once again to this photograph, Nut, to ask more questions and add more commentary.As for using this picture to instruct you in political power, I can tell you that this image brings to mind a central political fact about China itself. Through its thousands of years of history, it emperors governed with ruthless force, because the many different cultures and values within this country were constantly challenging them. Even the last century has seen China divided deeply by civil wars and struggles for power. These long lines of soldiers, both shattered and whole, represent in a way, the tumultuous struggles for power that have taken place. Today, China's rulers govern more people than any country on earth. The sheer size of China is its greatest resource. And this image is also all about size and scale. It implies a never ending source of strength, too. And you are also correct when you mention the nature of death itself. All of these symbolic soldiers could not bring their emperor back to life. They could only guard his tomb. And all of them eventually die --- the broken trail of smashed soldiers in the back ranks tell us that as you say, death is the only truth of life.
nut 25-Dec-2004 07:05
As you in this photo, I might say this photo told me something about the duty, govern and guardian. This is centric govern. The one who hold power is their emperor. As you said "Soldiers are timelss symbols of obedience" then the most important to them in the part is their emperor. But how about now, the most important is the nation. I think this is a good place to show me about the Politics.This photo told me how lonely to be on the top of all. Finally, human always afraid of the time and final destination, there are the truth of life.
Phil Douglis24-Dec-2004 17:15
Glad to have stimulated these thoughts, Nut. Soldiers are timeless symbols of obedience, and these ranks of ancient soldiers were put there to guard their emperor forever. As such, they must endure. They have no choice but to obey. And that is the calling of all soldiers, throughout time. l
nut 24-Dec-2004 13:57
Sadness. I feel sad when I saw this photo. To me, the soldiers aren't different with real human-soldiers. They are so small in size when compared with the human-soldiers. But all of them have only one duty to do, to a soldier and protector. Time goes by but the soldiers still working. They still the same as whatever they were in the part, never get old or die. Many of them have imcomplete part of their body, but they still alive. What kind of this duty? No leave, no vacation, can't die, nor sick.
Phil Douglis09-Dec-2004 20:26
And still once more does Clara Ibanez GZ Lisson bring her deliciously ironic -- and substantive -- comments to one of my images. You point up the irony of 2,000 year old soldiers waiting around for work! All this time has passed, yet we still need armies to go out and fight other armies.
Guest 09-Dec-2004 17:41
a very strong contrast this one too. between old and new. the statues of soldiers seem to wait patiently in a hangar. maybe some army coalition will recruite them? are they mercenaries? these soldiers receive more care than troups sent to fight nowadays.
Phil Douglis17-Jul-2004 03:38
Thanks, Tim, for this comment. What goes around does indeed come around. Each generation deals with its past in a different way, and as you say, the great structure that now embraces these ancient relics in Xian may someday provide food for thought in itself.
Tim May16-Jul-2004 17:29
As I explore this image I find myself drawn to the structure that clearly protects and encloses this history. The present day world creates its own artifacts and building that will possibly be studied in the future.
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