Terracotta Army of Chinese Warriors
This Terracotta Army has Eight Thousand Warriors!
Discovered in 1974 by chance, the Terracotta Army is a massive collection of life-sized terracotta warrior figures buried near the tomb of the Emperor Qin, first emperor of unified China. The site was listed by UNESCO in 1987 as a World Cultural Heritage Site.
Around 8,000 unique figures of soldiers and horses have been found, a huge army! The Terracotta Army is not only an archaeological treasure, it is an icon of China's past.
What Is This Terracotta Army?
The Terracotta Army is a collection of over 8,000 life-size figures of warriors and horses. They were found buried near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China in 1974, by farmers. This was quite a chance discovery as the farmers were drilling a well for water near the burial mound of Emperor Qin, the first emperor to rule over a unified China. The amazing collection of terracotta warriors that they came upon were Emperor Qin's army.
Warriors in the Terracotta Army, Qin Dynasty, 210 BC
The warrior figures are constructed of terracotta. Each man was built with solid legs and a hollow torso. These terracotta figures were constructed from specific parts that were crafted and fired, and then assembled together to form each whole figure. After completion the warriors were placed in precise military formation according to rank, lined up in huge pits.
One thing that is so amazing about this army is that each warrior is unique. They vary in height, facial features and expressions, hairstyle, and uniforms that indicate different ranks. They are not only the size of actual people (and horses) they are also amazingly life-like. Their faces look so real that it seems like they were modeled on actual soldiers. Can you imagine having a terracotta figure of yourself made and buried in a pit with thousands of others for thousands of years!
The soldiers have armor and were originally armed with bronze spears and bows and arrows.
There are not only infantry but also cavalry, complete with their horses.
Terra Cotta Warriors and horses by Keren Su
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There are even lacquered wooden war chariots pulled by horses.
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Who Built the Terracotta Army?
The Terracotta Army was built by order of the Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor Qin, who ruled over the Chinese State of Qin from 247 B.C.E. to 221 B.C.E., and then as the first emperor of a unified China from 221 B.C.E. until his death in 210 B.C.E., ruling under the name First Emperor. He was buried in a huge mausoleum alongside large quantities of treasure and objects of craftsmanship. The necropolis complex was constructed as an imperial palace complete with offices and halls, and surrounded by a wall. Such a construction is similar to the Egyptian Pyramids at Giza built to house the pharoahs and all that they would need in the afterlife.
Why did he build this army?
Emperor Qin apparently had pretty grandiose ideas about his time in the afterlife! The wonders inside his tomb were written about by a Chinese historian, Sima Qian who described palaces, scenic towers, officials, valuable utensils and "wonderful objects." He wrote of rare jewels, a scale replica of the universe complete with ceilings that mapped the heavens with stars and planets represented by pearls, and on the floor of the tomb a panorama map of China with flowing mercury representing the rivers and seas. Together with all those offices and rooms it seems like he was preparing quite a bureaucracy to help him rule the whole world!
However, Sima Qian never mentioned the Terracotta Army. We can imagine though that Terracotta Army was constructed not just to protect the Emperor's tomb in this world, but to be his warriors during his rule in the afterlife. Seems like he expected quite a lot of others to challenge his rule, since he prepared thousands of warriors all armed to the teeth, both infantry and cavalry complete with horses.
Presumably Emperor Qin thought it better to make terracotta warriors, rather than killing his real army and having them buried near him, which is kind of what the Egyptian pharoahs did with their servants. If Emperor Qin wanted his dynasty to continue on the earth he must have thought his son would need a real army to maintain it. Thus, he ordered figures of his warriors created out of terracotta ready to do battle in the afterlife. Truly an amazing enterprise!
YouTube Video on The Terracotta Army
What Happened to this Terracotta Army?
Well, after Emperor Qin ordered this huge army constructed, they were placed in these enormous pits, all lined up ready for battle in precise military formation.
They really look like they're all just ready to march out to do battle, or mount up and ride forth. Of course someone stole their weapons, but apart from that I reckon they'd be a pretty dangerous force if they got going!
Terracotta Figures from the 2000 Year Old Army
Unfortunately, though, Emperor Qin died, apparently before the army was quite complete. Pretty soon after the Emperor's death there was a rebellion and rebels broke in and stole many of the weapons. Within four years of Emperor Qin's death his son was dead and the Qin Dynasty come to an end. The historian, Sima Qian, described how the tomb and vaults holding the Terracotta Army were looted, the weapons from the terracotta figures being stolen and the necropolis being set on fire. Despite the fire much of the Terracotta Army survived, surrounded by burnt wooden structures that housed it.
Books on the Terracotta Army
Learn all about the terracotta army, how they were discovered, how they were made, and all about Emperor Qin who made them!
Rediscovery and Restoration of the Terracotta Army
So, 2,000 years later, in 1974 some farmers were drilling in the field near Emperor Qin's burial mound and found the Terracotta Army. Pottery found by the farmers soon attracted the attention of archeologists, who quickly recognized that the artifacts were from the Qin Dynasty of over 2,000 years ago. Those farmers must have been shocked!
Excavations were commenced and the huge pits were found, filled with warriors. Of course they were rather the worse for wear, having suffered that major fire and being buried there for 2,000 years. So they needed a bit of help to regain their composure, so to speak.
Four pits were found, each almost 25 feet deep. The first and largest pit has 6,000 warriors lined up facing east in battle formation, with war chariots at the back. It also has passages 10 feet wide that are paved with small bricks and have wooden ceilings supported by large beams and posts.
The second pit has another thousand warriors. It has cavalry and infantry units as well as lacquered wooden war chariots, and is thought to represent a military guard.
The third and smaller pit appears to be a command center. It contains figures of high-ranking officers, a war chariot, and four horses. The fourth pit is empty and it seems that the emperor probably died before it was completed.
You can visit the Terracotta Army
A large hall has been built to protect the army which allows the public to see the warriors easily. It is visited by around two million tourists annually.
Terracotta Warrior Statues to Buy
These statues are handmade in the same manner as the original life size Terracotta Soldiers. No two soldiers are exactly the same.
This is the archer. If you're wondering why he doesn't have a bow and arrows - remember their weapons were all stolen!
Of course, the general has the coolist uniform!
This is the infantry soldier - there must be a lot of them in the army!
There's a Terracotta Army Museum in England!
If you don't have time (or money) to travel to China, don't worry you can visit the Terracotta Warriors Museum in the UK. It's located in Dorchester in Dorset. While it's not as spectacular as the real location of course, it's very educational and quite inspiring. It features a number of displays that were specially designed with life size figures and audio recordings that tell the story of the construction of the terracotta warriors, background on life in China 2200 years ago, and the chance discovery of this amazing army in 1974.
- Terracotta Warriors Museum - Dorchester
Website of the Terracotta Warriors Museum.
More about the Terracotta Army
© 2009 Jennifer P Tanabe