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The Terra Cotta Army: China's First Emperor and the Birth of a Nation Paperback – August 4, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780306818400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818400
  • ASIN: 030681840X
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,268,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Joy Hog, 8/18/08 "If the tiny tidbits designed for the ADD crowd on NBC merely wet your palette for more, "The Great Wall" is a good place to start." "Tucson Citizen," 8/21/08 "A fascinating history." "The Tucson Citizen," 8/21/08 "A highly readable account." "Acadiana LifeStyle," September 2008 "[A] fascinating book...If you plan to go [to the traveling exhibit], buy this book first." American Author's Association website exciting an accounting of history as it gets!...John Man has a way of making history seem like a novel...Go buy a copy!" "Sun Lakes Splash" "A vivid account of the roots that formed the unique culture of China."

About the Author

John Man is a historian and travel writer with a special interest in China and Mongolia whose list of acclaimed books includes Genghis Khan. He lives in the United Kingdom.

More About the Author


I usually write non-fiction, mainly exploring interests in Asia and the history of written communication. So 'The Lion's Share', available only on Kindle, is something different - a new edition of a thriller written some 25 years ago when I wasn't sure what I wanted to focus on. It's about the 'real' - in quotes, i.e. fictional - fate of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.

Most of the time, I like to mix history, narrative and personal experience, exploring the places I write about. It brings things to life, and it's a reaction against an enclosed, secure, rural childhood in Kent. I did German and French at Oxford, and two postgraduate courses, History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (to join an expedition that never happened).

After working in journalism and publishing, I turned to writing, with occasional forays into film, TV and radio. A planned trilogy on three major revolutions in writing has resulted in two books, 'Alpha Beta' (on the alphabet) and 'The Gutenberg Revolution', both republished in 2009. The third, on the origin of writing, is on hold, because it depends on researching in Iraq. (On the fourth revolution, the Internet, many others can write far better than me).

My interest in Mongolia revived in 1996 when I spent a couple of months in the Gobi. 'Gobi: Tracking the Desert' was the first book on the region since the 1920's (those by the American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews). In Mongolia, everything leads back to Genghis. I followed. The result was 'Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection', now appearing in 20 languages. Luckily, there's more to Mongol studies than Genghis. 'Attila the Hun' and 'Kublai Khan' came next.

Another main theme in Asian history is the ancient and modern relationship between Mongolia and China. 'The Terracotta Army', published to in 2007, was followed by 'The Great Wall', which took me from Xinjiang to the Pacific. 'The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan' (combining history, character analysis and modern leadership theory) and 'Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East' pretty much exhausted Inner Asian themes for me.

So recently I have become interested in Japan. For 'Samurai: The Last Warrior', I followed in the footsteps of Saigo Takamori, the real 'Last Samurai', published in February 2011. After that, more fiction, perhaps.

I live in north London, inspired by a strong and beautiful family - wife, children and grand-children.

Customer Reviews

Go buy a copy!
W. H. McDonald Jr.
All of these details add up to outstanding insights into this fascinating discovery.
M. A Newman
Great photos are included.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bobby D. on July 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had opportunity to attend the Terra Cotta Army exhibit at the Bower Museum, Santa Ana, California. I purchased this book on Amazon where it was discounted. Let me first comment that it might help if you read this book first before seeing the exhibit. The photographs are excellent and show much of what you will see at the exhibit. Unfortunately the text is rather uneven. On the positive side the beginning of the book, Part one which covers the discovery of the ARMY reads well as does the current state of restoration which ends the book as Part three. However, the history lesson in Part two of the book is dull and lifeless and it was my impression that Mr. Man just dictated and rambled through this section. When he devotes several pages to the film THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN or uses lines referencing the reader to having seen OFFICER AND GENTELMAN you know you're in for tour guide writing 101. I did learn a lot, and recommend the book mainly as a tour guide introduction to the exhibit traveling the US this year. Otherwise, buy it for the photographs and read Parts one and three.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By W. H. McDonald Jr. on September 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Author John Man, whose books are reflective of someone in love with history, has given readers a real treat, in his well written book "The Terra Cotta Army: China's First Emperor and the Birth of a Nation". He presents a close-up and almost personal look at something which has intrigued the world since its discovery in 1974.

Reading about the this historic discovery, with its life-size statues of warriors and horses, makes any armchair archaeologist feel like Indian Jones. It stirs the imagination of the reader. I consider any book a good read that allows me to continue my daydreaming about it long after having put the book down. This book will ignite that kind of inner adventure with readers!

I found the accompanying photos to be a wonderful addition to the written accounting. After reading this book, I would now love to go see the real thing. John Man has a way of making history seem like a novel. He captures the most important elements of the facts and uses just enough verbiage to give you a a full understanding without drowning you in data and details like so many historians and writers do. This is a fun to read book and not a text book!

This book , like all of John Man's books is a FIVE STAR Blockbuster! It is that good. Go buy a copy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. A Newman VINE VOICE on January 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Man has produced an excellent introduction to the Terra Cotta Army of China's first emperor in this excellent book entitled "The Terra Cotta Army." For those out there who have the opportunity to view some of these artifacts for the first time in 2010.

Man characterizes the 1974 discovery of the terra cotta army as the outstanding archeological discovery of the 20th century because it changed the perceptions of the short-lived, but important Qin dynasty and who is prepared to argue. Probably only the discovery of the Gnostic gospels or the tomb of Tutankhamun would come close to providing greater insight into the ancient world. The first Qin emperor was also the first emperor of China who unified the kingdoms of Qin, Zhao, Yan, Qi, Wei, Chu, and Han between 221-206 BC and established his capital on the Wei river in the city of Xianyang. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Qin emperor was the unification of China, albeit a China which consisted of what would be the eastern third of modern China.

One real interesting narrative line n in the book is a discussion of the sources that are available on the Qin emperor. These are the histories of Sima Qian. These were written during the succeeding Han dynasty which really had no reason to promote the achievements of its predecessor. Sima Qian also appears to have used the Qin emperor (who was no sweetheart) as a means of expressing some of his anger at members of the Han dynasty (not an uncommon practice in the ancient world where literal truth always took a backseat to reader edification, Tacitus uses Tiberius to critique Domitian in the Annals).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Global Wanderer on February 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
When I traveled to China, I had both of John Man's books - The Great Wall and The Terra Cotta Army - with me. Before visiting Xian and the original Terra Cotta Army, I had read his book. I am so glad I did. Without Man's storytelling, explaining country and history, the art of the production process, remaining mysteries, and the vivid accounts of the excavation, my visit to the Army would have quite....dull, I have to say. The grey soldiers are interesting to see, but honestly, given the hype around them, I was underwhelmed...except that I could spot Generals vs. Soldiers and other characters thanks to Man's book. I was also able to understand the Army in its historical context. By closing my eyes and recalling what Man had written, the Army and the whole history of the First Emperor came to life. A picture emerged that would have been not available by just visiting the site without his book. If you are a traveler who wants to understand what she sees, read Man's book before going to Xian.
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