Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army or Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor or Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum is a collection of clay sculptures depicting the battalion of soldiers as a funeral ritual in Xi'an, Lintong District, Shaanxi Province, China, to guard Qin Shi Huang who ruled the Qin Kingdom as the first Chinese Emperor on 210-209 BC and aims to protect the emperor in the afterlife. The site was discovered in 1974 by local farmers.

The figures vary according to their roles where the highest rank is the generals, then the soldiers, horse-drawn carriages and horses. Three holes containing the Terracotta Army consisted of at least 8,000 soldiers, 130 horse-drawn trains with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry riding mostly remained buried near the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. Other non-military terracotta figures are found in other pits including officials, acrobats, powerful people and musicians.

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Terracotta's army was discovered on March 29, 1974 by farmers digging a well about 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) east of the Emperor Qin's tomb mound on Mount Li filled with underground rivers. The discovery prompted Chinese archaeologists to investigate the largest group of pottery sculptures ever found in China and a museum complex has been built over the area.

The Terracotta Army is part of a large necropolis where ground penetrating radars and core sampling have measured an area of about 98 square kilometers (38 square miles). Necropolis was built as a microcosm of the palace complex and covers a large area around the first emperor's tomb mound.

The mound of earth tombs at the foot of Mount Li is built in the form of a pyramid and is surrounded by two earthen walls with a gate entrance. Necropolis consists of several offices, halls, stables, other structures and imperial gardens around the mound of the tomb. Archaeologists also found several graves dating from the 18th century and 19th century where the diggers apparently hit a terracotta fragment.


The tomb remains a confined space due to concerns over the preservation of artifacts. The surface of the paint on some terracotta characters began to peel and fade. Lacquer that covers the paint can be curved in fifteen seconds after exposure to dry air in Xi'an and can peel in just four minutes.

Four main holes have been excavated located about 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) east of the burial mound. The soldiers inside are arranged in formation as if to protect the tomb from the east where the direction of the countries that the emperor conquered. Pit 1 has a length of 230 meters (750 feet) and a width of 62 meters (203 feet) contains 6,000 figures.

The hole has eleven corridors 3 meters (10 feet) wide and is lined with small bricks with wooden ceilings supported by large beams and columns. The design of this noble tomb resembles the hallway of the palace. The wood ceilings are covered with reeds and clay layers for waterproofing.

Height of land 2 meters to 3 meters (6 feet 7 in to 9 feet 10 in) above the surrounding soil surface. Pit 2 has cavalry units, infantry and chariots that are considered to represent a military guard. Pit 3 is a command post with high-ranking officers and chariots. Pit 4 is empty.

Pit 1 and 2 show the damage caused by fires and missing weapons as evidence of looting. Burning on the site has caused the roof to collapse and destroy the figure of the soldiers below. The terracotta sculptures on display have been restored from the fragments.

Other holes that form the necropolis have also been dug inside and outside the walls surrounding the grave. The collection consists of bronze carriages, entertainers such as acrobats and strong men, officials, armor, horses, animals, laborers, bronze cranes and ducks placed in underground gardens.

Most of the characters initially hold real weapons such as spears, swords, and crossbows. Most of the original weapons had been looted shortly after the creation of the army or had rotted. Yet more than 40,000 items of bronze armaments have been found including swords, spears, axes of war, scimitar, shields, crossbows, arrows and daggers.

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Location: Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses Qin Shi Huang's, and Mausoleum Site Park (Lishan Garden) di Xi'an, Lintong District, Shaanxi Province, China.

Routes and public transport: Flight to Xi'an Xianyang International Airport in Xi'an City, then to Xian Railway Station for 1 hour, then take 5 (306) tourist bus to museum for 1 hour. Alternatively use a taxi from Airport to Terracotta Army for 70 minutes at a cost of more.

Advice: Originally named Emperor Qin Shi Huang Site, it is now a living museum under the name of Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum or the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor featuring the life story of the emperor and the Qin Kingdom. The two main places to visit are:
  1. Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses
    Pit 1: The front three rows are infantry and chariots.
    Pit 2: Infantry, team arrows, cavalry, and 80 chariots.
    Pit 3: Command with 68 warriors and horse-drawn carriages.
  2. Qin Shi Huang's Mausoleum Site Park (Lishan Garden)
    Pit K0006: Civil Official Figures
    Pit K0007: Bronze Aquatic Birds (not open yet)
    Pit K9801: Stone Armor and Helmets (not open yet)
    Pit K9901: Acrobatics Figures