Highgate’s own Chinese terracotta army marches into primary school

Standing proud with weapons, armour and stony glares, these clay soldiers may only be a fraction of the size of the real Chinese terracotta army but children at a Highgate primary school have handcrafted them to look just as fiercely intimidating.

Pupils spent hours creating their own individual terracotta clay warriors as part of their Mandarin and Chinese cultural studies at Highgate Primary School, in Storey Road.

Some children have created tall impassive figures who look ready to go into battle, while others have given their soldiers bushy facial hair and angry frowns.

Each warrior is unique in deference to the one of the biggest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century – the 2,000-year-old Chinese terracotta army of 8,000 clay soldiers, which all have individual facial features.

The school’s miniature terracotta army went on display at an open evening for prospective parents two weeks ago.


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Headteacher William Dean said: “They are all personal to the child. I think the children had a clear idea of the type of warriors they wanted to make. They were very absorbed in the making and very quiet – it was a really lovely atmosphere to see the children working in a fantastic way. They were very proud of them.

‘‘It was a nice way to finish off the first year of teaching Chinese cultural studies and Mandarin to have a final product at the end.”

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Children were asked to make their own clay warriors after they studied the history behind the original terracotta army, which was first discovered in Xi’an, China, in 1974.

The life-sized collection of soldiers, horses and chariots was buried with the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, between 210 and 209 BC, more than 2,000 years ago.

The pupils, aged between seven and 10, made moulds out of silver foil and then covered them with terracotta clay to make their army.

They carved faces, armour and weapons onto the clay and then painted them in blues and golds.

The end-of-term project was produced in the school’s new art studio, which replaced the disused IT suite after Mr Dean brought in laptops and tablets for children to use in classrooms. Mandarin teacher Rhoda Pennington said: “Our experience of introducing Mandarin to the Highgate Primary curriculum has been overwhelmingly positive.”

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