The Terracotta Army or the “Terracotta Warriors and Horses” is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China.
The Terracotta Army was discovered on 29 March 1974 in Shaanxi province near Xi’an by a group of farmers digging a water well approximately 1.6 kilometres east of the Qin Emperor’s tomb mound at Mount Li. For centuries, there were reports of pieces of terracotta figures and fragments( roofing tiles, bricks, and chunks of masonry) being dug up in the area. This prompted Chinese archaeologists to investigate, and they unearthed the largest pottery figurine group ever found in China.
The terracotta army figures were manufactured in workshops by government laborers and local craftsmen using materials originated on Mount Li. Heads, arms, legs, and torsos were all created separately and then assembled. A total of eight face moulds were most likely used, with clay then added to provide individual facial features after assembly. In those times of tight imperial control, each workshop was required to inscribe its name on items produced to ensure quality control. This has aided modern historians in verifying which workshops were commandeered to make tiles and other mundane items for the terracotta army. Upon completion, the terracotta figures were placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty.
The terracotta figures are life-sized. They vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with rank. Most originally held real weapons such as spears, swords, or crossbows. Originally, the figures were also painted with bright pigments, variously coloured pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white, and lilac.The coloured lacquer finish, individual facial features, and weapons used in producing these figures created a realistic appearance. Most of the original weapons were thought to have been looted shortly after the creation of the army, or have rotted away, while the colour coating has flaked off or greatly faded.
There are four main pits. They are located approximately 1.5 kilometres from the burial mound with the soldiers within laid out as if to protect the tomb from the east, where all the Qin Emperor’s conquered states lay. Pit one is 750 ft long and 603 ft wide and contains the main army of more than 6000 figures. It has 11 corridors, most of which are more than 9 ft 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 nobles and would have resembled palace hallways when built. 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.
The Qin Emperor’s rule is often remembered for its ruthlessness and maybe is one of the reasons it took so long to uncover this amazing find. Excavations have been slowly uncovering this place for the last 30 years but the underground palace and the central area of the tomb remains a mystery to this day. Archeologists say it would take 200 years to uncover it all and they aren’t sure what they would find. It is said this Emperor was so ruthless that the artisans and craftsmen who built this amazing place were entombed inside so they could never reveal the Emperor’s secrets!
We stopped at the factory where they make the replica warriors. The warriors range in size from small to life size. Oh how I wish I had place for a life size warrior. Then it was on to the pits and the site we were anticipating. It was just so AMAZING to see these life-sized figures and know the history. I know why it is truly a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE site! AMAZING!!!