Xian's Terracotta Army

Xian Terracotta Army

Xian's Terracotta Army, discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers digging the fields, is the collection of +8,000 life-size soldiers built more than 2,000 years ago by Emperor Qin to protect him in the next world.

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Who was Emperor Qin?

Besides being famous for his Terracota Army, Emperor Qin plays quite an important part in China's history.

Back in 221 B.C. there was no China. He unified all the different warring kingdoms that existed in the territory and assumed the position of First Emperor giving way to the Chinese Empire's first dynasty, the Qin Dinasty.

Emperor Qin is also responsible for instituting the same writing system accross all of China, whereas before, each conquered kingdom had its own language and writing.

To protect his empire, he built the first Great Wall of China, starting the project that would become the 4,000 mile-long wall we know today.

In order to protect himself from enemies in the afterlife, he built an army of soldiers that would guard his magnificent tomb when he died.

Hundreds of craftsmen were called from all over the land to build the army, which was finished before the Emperor passed away in the year 210 B.C.

About the Terracotta Soldiers

The soldiers stand in rows ready for battle within the unearthed pits. To date, four pits have been discovered, with Pit number one holding the largest army, estimated at 6,000 soldiers.

Xian Terracotta Army Pit One

Every single soldier is unique, no two are alike, their facial expressions, hair style, posture, height and uniform, all denoting their position and rank within the army.

Xian Terracotta Army Soldiers Faces

The head, arms and body of the soldiers are hollow, whereas the legs are solid pottery.

When the Terracotta Army was discovered, the farmers, not knowing the relevance of their finding, had been using the hollow heads for household needs, to carry water, for cooking, etc.

Few of the original weapons carried by the Terracotta Warriors and crafted of metal have been found in the pits but for the most part have all disintegrated and the only testament to the weapons that remains is the position of the soldiers' hands indicating that they were carrying some sort of tool: crossbows, spears, swords, battle-axes, etc.

Xian Terracotta Army Soldiers Faces

The weapons carried by the clay soldiers were real weapons, the kind taken into battle.

Accompanying the foot soldiers was the cavalry and many horses have been uncovered as well.

Xian Terracotta Army Horses

It is believed that the soldiers found together with their team of horses once stood on wooden chariots that have now disintegrated. Check out their hands again to see they appear to be holding reins.

Xian Terracotta Army Charioteers and Horses

About the Terracotta Army Museum

Ongoing excavation work is performed onsite. The underground pits that have been unearthed are covered by modern hangar-like structures to protect the treasures. The warriors stand in formation, row after row, it's an amazing sight.

Xian Terracotta Army

The army of soldiers and horses you see today have been reconstructed by teams of dedicated archaeologists, which is in itself an amazing thing considering the condition some of the pieces are in after laying underground for over 2,000 years.

Xian Terracotta Army Reconstruction Work

This is only a fraction of what is believed to be Emperor Qin's splendid grave which to date remains a mystery. The actual Emperor's tomb is located about one mile from where the army was found and there are still no plans to open the tomb until archaeologists can be sure that the tomb can be unearthed without damaging its contents.

Ongoing Excavation at the Terracotta Army Pits

Another round of excavation has recently commenced in the pits and work is ongoing at the moment.

This is a very exciting development, as the pit is open for tourists to watch as the excavation work proceeds.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of the project, this pit is only one of 180 funerary pits of the Qin Mausoleum, so there is still much work to be done.

After you visit the pits, drop by the museum store and look for the old man signing books, that's Yang Zhi Fa, the only one of the farmers that discovered the Terracotta warriors still alive today. He is sort of a "mini-celebrity" and likes to come around and sign books, so there's a chance you might run into him!

At the Museum shop there are also replicas of the soldiers so you can admire up close and in detail the different warriors that made up the major form of Qin Shi Huang's Army: the Generals, the Officers, the Soldiers, the Charioteers, the Kneeling Archers, etc.

Terracotta Army Replicas

We recommend: The Emperor's Silent Army: Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China by Jane O'Connor

terracotta army childrens book

A Story of hidden arrows, a poisoned king, hidden treasures...

Jane O'Connor visited the Terracotta Warriors while on vacation in January 2000. Since her visit, the sight of rows upon rows of these magnificent army, left her wanting to learn more. Since then, she started learning all she could about the warriors, and the Emperor who had them built. When she found out there were no books for children about this fascinating piece of history, she decided to write one!

Jane tells the story of how the first statues were discovered by the farmers and the archaeologists later discovery of thousands upon thousands of figures after being buried for more than 2000 years. Then she tells the story of Emperor Qin and his measures in building the army to protect him in his afterlife.

Details like the logic to the arrangement of the Army and the difference between the 350 chariot horses and the more than 100 cavalry horses are explained as well as the techniques used more than 2000 years ago to create the statues in a language that easily captures interest.

This book is sure to engage children and adults alike with the many color photographs, computer images, maps and charts.

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