Up to now, it was Marco Polo who was credited as being one of the first Westerners to reach China, document his travels extensively and help begin contact between East and West. But now, that conventional history has been shattered, following new evidence that links the Ancient Greeks with the far-away Chinese empires by more than 1,500 years before Marco Polo.
What’s even more fascinating is that China’s most important archaeological site— the massive complex of terracotta warriors— more than 8,000 life-sized statues “protecting” a grave of the First Emperor— were made with the help of the Ancient Greeks.
The 8,000 statues— guardians of the mausoleum of China’s First Emperor, are now believed to have been made under the guidance of a European sculptor who worked with locals at the site and took strong influence from Ancient Greece, according to Dr Li Xiuzhen, Senior Archaeologist at the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, who spoke to the UK’s Independent about his findings.
“We now have evidence that close contact existed between the First Emperor’s China and the West before the formal opening of the Silk Road. This is far earlier than we formerly thought, adding that “We now think the Terracotta Army, the Acrobats and the bronze sculptures found on site have been inspired by ancient Greek sculptures and art”.
Other experts agree, as does recently found DNA evidence.
Professor Lukas Nickel, chair of Asian Art History at the University of Vienna, believes the tomb of the First Emperor was influenced by the arrival of Greek statues in Central Asia in the century following Alexander the Great.
“I imagine that a Greek sculptor may have been at the site to train the locals,” Nickel said.
Separate studies have revealed European-specific mitochondrial DNA that has been found in the region, confirming that Westerners may have settled, lived and died there before and during the time of the First Emperor.
Numerous experts have also pointed out that no other tradition of creating life-sized human statues existed in China before the tomb with the Terracotta Warriors was created. Earlier statues were simple figurines about 8 inches in height.
Furthermore, the similarities have always been drawn between the Ancient Greek Kouros statues— their posture and stature, with those of the Chinese statues.