Secrets of The Terracotta Army

Every year, over a million people flock to China to see the famous Terracotta Army. Uncovered in 1974 and now referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, this UNESCO World Heritage Site displays an extraordinary level of craftsmanship and Chinese artistry. With more than 8 000 terracotta warriors, horses, and weapons having been discovered; the find is not over. Excavation still continues to this day. Here are 10 secrets of the Terracotta Army.

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These warriors were made as part of the funerary goods for the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang. The life sized figures are said to be models of Qin’s real army.

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It was constructed over 2 200 years ago. The Terracotta Army was created by China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who began the construction of the army in 246 BC after he (then aged 13) ascended the throne.

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The Terracotta Army remained underground and untouched for more than 2 200 years. It was discovered by chance by local farmers while digging a well in 1974 in Xi’an. It is said that previously, the land was rejected by other farmers due to its poor farming quality. Now we know it was because of the kiln ash and shards of pottery below.

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The army occupies three pits. There is also an exhibition hall containing the Bronze Chariots. Pit one is the largest, measuring 230 meters long, 62 meters wide and seven meters deep. Here there are over 6 000 terracotta figures of soldiers and horses all in battle formation. Not all of these have been unearthed as yet with only 2 000 being on display. Pit two contains archers, chariots, mixed forces and cavalry while pit three contains only 68 terracotta officials, representing the command post. The Exhibition Hall of the Bronze Chariots contains the world’s largest bronze artifacts. Each carriage contains about 3 400 parts with 1 720 pieces of golden and silver ornaments.

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Since the discovery of the Terracotta Army, more than 8 000 soldiers, 130 chariots, and 670 horses have been uncovered. Terracotta musicians, acrobats, and concubines have also been found as well as some birds like waterfowl, cranes, and ducks. It is believed that Emperor Qin wanted to create the same grand services and treatment for his afterlife.

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Over 700 000 laborers were involved in the construction of the army. While construction of the Terracotta Army began in 246 BC when Qin Shi Huang ascended to the State throne; it ended in 206 BC, 4 years after Qin’s death when the Han Dynasty began.

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It took about 40 years to complete. It is also believed that these laborers were either put to death or buried alive with the Emperor so that the mausoleum would remain a secret.

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No two figures were built alike. Each warrior has unique facial features. The infantry, archers, generals, and cavalry are all different in their expressions, clothing, and hairstyles.

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Excavation of the terracotta figures is ongoing. Currently, there are four pits in total with terracotta figures being unearthed from three so far.

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The horses in the archaeological site are saddled indicating that the saddle was invented long before the Qin Dynasty.

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How to get there:

  • Xi’an is located in the Shaanxi Province of China.
  • To get to the museum, board one of the green shuttle buses at Xi’an Train Station. The journey should take about an hour and costs approximately RMB 7.
  • Address: Terracotta Warriors Museum, East of Lintong City, Lintong District, Xi’an / 西安市临潼区近郊临潼城东
  • Operating hours: 8:30a.m.-5:30 p.m. (March 16-November 14), 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (November 15-March 15)
  • Admission: RMB 120 (December-February), RMB 150 (March-November)
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Hi World! I'm Shal - an environmental microbiologist, writer, teacher and artist from Durban, South Africa. I've spent the last two years traveling and teaching Chemistry and English to young kids in Asia. Life of Shal was founded as a way to share travel experiences, tips and other worldly magic with you! Join me on my journey!

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