Terracotta army faces attack by 40 fungi

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The Independent Online

Earlier this year, China proudly announced the discovery of a green-faced warrior in the very grey ranks of the amazing terracotta army that guards the tomb of China's first emperor. Every one of the 8,000 life-size antiques boasts a different facial expression. Was this kneeling archer meant to depict an ethnic minority, or was his green cast merely a craftsman's mistake?

Earlier this year, China proudly announced the discovery of a green-faced warrior in the very grey ranks of the amazing terracotta army that guards the tomb of China's first emperor. Every one of the 8,000 life-size antiques boasts a different facial expression. Was this kneeling archer meant to depict an ethnic minority, or was his green cast merely a craftsman's mistake?

Another theory now springs to mind. It might have just been mould. Yesterday, state media released details of an emergency package to purge the army of its latest deadly foe. At the ancient site near the north-western city of Xian, upwards of 40 diverse fungi are laying siege to more than 1,400 of the pottery soldiers baked and buried to protect Emperor Qin Shihuang (259-210BC) in the trials of the afterlife.

China is determined to cleanse its self-styled "Eighth Wonder of the World" and preserve the battle formation for generations of future tourists. With the help of the Belgian chemical giant Janssen, an anti-fungal rescue team has been formed to search and destroy.

The guardians of the terracotta army are not only battling against moulds from ancient timber supporting the underground barracks. Just as deadly are moulds introduced through the breath and on the clothes of millions of tourists.

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