Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Greatest Tomb

It's beginning to look as though China's first emperor may have imported Greek artists (not necessarily from Greece itself but from the further reaches of Alexander's empire) to oversee the work on his mausoleum complex- with its terracotta army, bronze chariots et al. How else to explain the sudden great leap forward in Chinese art- from funny little pots to realistic, life-sized statuary? The BBC had an hour long programme about this last night- fronted by Dan Snow, Alice Roberts and David Lin- and I was surprised at how willing the Chinese authorities were to co-operate with them and encourage them in their speculations- even to the point of allowing them to fly drones over a landscape studded with military installations.  Not so very long ago all of this- including the theory itself- would have been quite unthinkable. But now, I suppose, with China reaching out to the west commercially, politically and culturally, the leadership is happy to expose and publicise precedents for what would once have been seen as a break with tradition. You think it's odd that we're selling you our power stations?  But why not when you sold us your bronze casting techniques?  Those 2,000 years of isolation behind the Great Wall were just a blip- and really we've always been the best of friends....

It was pleasant- heartwarming even- to watch the western scholars getting on so well with their Chinese counterparts. So much smiling, laughing and joking. The Chinese had even gone to the lengths of fishing an unChinese-looking skull out of a mass grave and reconstructing the face for us in the hope that it would look Greek. Sadly it didn't, but the intent was there...
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