Zhao Kangmin, an archaeologist who pieced together pottery fragments discovered by farmers and reconstructed the life-size terra-cotta warriors that have become one of China’s best-known ancient wonders, died on May 16. He was 81.
The state news media reported the death. His granddaughter, who declined to give her name, confirmed the death on Tuesday, saying the cause was a pulmonary infection.
The thousands of warriors were made more than 2,000 years ago and buried at the vast underground tomb complex of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, along with models of horses, weapons, chariots and other objects.
Qin Shi Huang had united much of the country under the short-lived Qin dynasty, which is generally considered the origin of the name “China.” The warriors’ job was to defend him in the afterlife.
Several thousand of the terra-cotta warriors are now on display in giant pits — the largest the size of an aircraft hangar — at the partly excavated tomb complex, which lies at the site of the Qin dynasty’s ancient capital, Xianyang, about 22 miles east of present-day Xi’an. Many others remain buried around the complex.