Xi'an, China
34° 15' N 108° 56' E
May 22, 2010 01:55
Distance 0km

Choose another map, showing:


Text written in: English

Terra Cotta Warriors

On our second full day in Xián we visited the Terra Cotta Warriors.  Definitely one of those must see places.  The photos say it all.  The site was discovered by accident in 1974 when a local peasant was digging a well and came up with remains of some terra cotta warriors.  The rest is history.  When you enter the site there is a bookstore when you can get a signed copy of a book about the TCW by the farmer who discovered it.

Below is a backgrounder from Wikipedia. 

The Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang the First Emperor of China. The terracotta figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. The figures vary in height (183–195 cm - 6 ft–6 ft 5in), according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. Many archeologists believe that there are many pits still waiting to be discovered.

The Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 in the eastern suburbs of Xi'an, Shaanxi Province by local farmers drilling a water well 1.5 miles east of Lishan (a mountain). This discovery prompted archaeologists to investigate. The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art buried with the First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang, "shi huang" means the first emperor) in 210-209 BC. (He declared himself the first emperor of China in 221 B.C.) Their purpose was to help rule another empire with Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as "Qin's Armies."

According to historian Sima Qian (145-90 BC), construction of this mausoleum began in 246 BC and involved 700,000 workers. Qin Shi Huang was 13 when construction began. He specifically stated that no two soldiers were to be made alike, which is most likely why he had construction started at that young age. Sima Qian, in his most famous work, Shiji, completed a century after the mausoleum completion, wrote that the First Emperor was buried with palaces, scenic towers, officials, valuable utensils and "wonderful objects," with 100 rivers fashioned in mercury and above this heavenly bodies below which he wrote were "the features of the earth." Some translations of this passage refer to "models" or "imitations," but he does not use those words.

The four pits associated with the dig are about 1.5 km east of the burial ground and are about 7 meters deep. The outside walls of the tomb complex are as if placed there to protect the tomb from the east, where all the conquered states lay. They are solidly built with rammed earth walls and ground layers as hard as concrete. Pit one, 230 meters long, contains the main army, estimated at 8,000 figures. Pit One has 11 corridors, most of which are over 3 meters wide, and paved with small bricks with a wooden ceiling supported by large beams and posts. This design was also used for the tombs of noblemen and would have resembled palace hallways. The wooden ceilings were covered with reed mats and layers of clay for waterproofing, and then mounded with more soil making them, when built, about 2 to 3 meters higher than ground level. Pit two has cavalry and infantry units as well as war chariots, and is thought to represent a military guard. Pit three is the command post, with high ranking officers and a war chariot. Pit four is empty, seemingly left unfinished by its builders. 

Photos / videos of "Terra Cotta Warriors":

Two headed terra cotta wantabees Trick terra cotta warrior (TCW). The TCW site is about 20 K outside of Xián in some beautiful countryside.  There are three pits.  This is the most spectular by far and where you start and spend most of your time. There are 8 or 9 columns of TCW's.  Originally they were covered with a wooden roof and then buried.  Soon after they were finished the site was invaded by hostile troops and set on fire and ransacked. You can see that further back the statues were destroyed.  Each statue is unique. There were five classes of warriors.  They can be distinguished one from another by things like whether their hair having a ponytail to the left or right and other head gear or how they were postured. This covered pit is at least as long as two football pitches.  Further back the TCW are in poorer shape. There were about 6,000 TCW.  They stand about 5 feet tall.  And more................. The position of there hands suggests what they were supposed to be holding.  Their metal or wood weapons have long since rusted or rotted away (or we taken by invaders). Huge, most impressive.  As usual, things in China was so overwhelming in scale and number. Closer up.  Their head can be removed.  They are hollow. They look so similar but each is a little different than the next. Different each.  And they are standing on a brick road or pathway. Different hair styles meant different military roles or rank. Horses too.  Chariots were just starting to be used.  This is about 200BC. Amazing what you can do with a telephoto lens and being 10 or more metres away. Same rank. Front line warriors.  First to go in the event of war.  Makes you think of Uriah. Within a short time after the death of this emperor the mausoleum was attacked and many of the warriors damaged, consequently the missing heads. The horses were so horselike. At the back of this covered pit there was a collections of TCW which were perched on a raised dirt platform.  I think this was the restoration area for recently excavated TCW's. Repair area. Very close up. Angry horse. Excavation in progress. The kneeling TCW was a archer. The middle portion of this pit was mostly unexcavated, likely because here the TCW had be ransacked. TCW-in-process of repair. Broken warriors. Second pit.  This one was less well lite and the TCW were in pretty rough shape.  What was different with these warriors is that they were not in formatation, rather it looked like they were standing around.  It is suggested that these were the generals discussing matters. Second pit.  Much less interesting and certainly less impressive. Second pit.  Pretty much everything here was destroyed or in sorry shape compared to the first pity. Musuem. Horse and charoit for one of the generals.  This was in the musuem, not in a pit setting. Last pit.  Limited excavation.  But by then you had seen enough so no big deal. Some of the horse from the second pit. Armour.  This was real as opposed to terra cotta material. Big pitcher.  When I see a pithcer I know it is time to leave the musuem.  Too me old pitchers from anywhere look the same.  At least this one was not in pieces. If you love broken pitchers, that is pretty much all they have in Greek musuems.