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The Terracotta Warriors / Army in Xi'an, China

Updated on August 13, 2012

Terracotta Soldiers

In 1974, some villagers from Xi'an in the Shaanxi province of China were digging a well and made an amazing discovery, unearthing fragments of terracotta heads, arms, and legs. As they dug deeper, they also began to unearth bronze arrowheads, crossbows, and other weapons. The archaeologists called in to excavate the find discovered that these life-szed figures were a terracotta army created to protect the tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang (259 - 210 BC).

I had the privilege of seeing some of the terracotta warriors with my daughter when they were featured in an exhibition in Sydney, Australia. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos, so the the photos on this page are all courtesy of other photographers, Click on the small thumbnail pictures to see them full sized.

Above Terracotta army picture courtesy of kconnors on morguefile

The size of the terracotta army

Excavated terracotta army
Excavated terracotta army

Terracotta army pit 1 picture courtesy of kconnors on morguefile

So far 4 pits have been found, one of which was empty. Excavation of the site is still continuing today on these four pits and even after 36 years, they are still far from finished. It is estimated that there are:

  • 8000 warriors
  • 140 chariots
  • 560 chariot horses
  • 116 cavalry horses

How the Terracotta Warriors Were Made

How the Terracotta Warriors Were Made
How the Terracotta Warriors Were Made

The terracotta warriors were made from clay in separate sections which were probably mass-produced - the platform, feet, legs, arms, hands, body, neck, head front, and head back. After all these sections were joined together, the figure was overlaid with a thin layer of clay. The different features were then added to this layer of fresh clay with the individual workman adding his own finishes so that no two faces are identical. Other features, such as the armor plates, belt hooks, shoe ties and even the tread pattern on the bottom of the kneeling archer's foot were also hand finished. The figures were then fired and color pigments were applied. Most of this color has since faded (after all, it's been over 2000 years), although some of it is still evident on some of the figures.

The above picture, courtesy of Percita on flickr, shows how the general may have been originally painted.

Have you ever seen the terracotta warriors?

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The Types of Terracotta Warriors and Horses

Click on the small thumbnails to see full-sized pictures

Terracotta Armored General

The highest ranking warrior in the terracotta army is the general. He is the tallest warrior, wears an impressive winged headdress, ribbons on his chest and back, and armor which extends below his waist, ending in a triangle.

Height – 203 cm

Weight – 250 kg



Famous Qin Dynasty Terracotta General Reproduction

Terracotta Armored Military Officer

The armored military officer is slightly smaller and less imposing than the general. He wears a special hat tied under his chin, denoting his officer's class. His right hand is raised and would have originally held a weapon.

Height – 190 cm

Weight – 180 kg




Famous Qin Dynasty Terracotta Officer Reproduction

Terracotta Light Infantryman

The light infantryman does not wear any armor and has his hair tied in a sort of topknot.

Height – 192 cm

Weight – 220 kg

Terracotta Armored Infantryman

The armored infantryman is similar to the light infantryman except he wears a type of cap and body and shoulder armor.

Height – 194 cm

Weight – 230 kg





Terracotta Standing Archer

The standing archer wears the standard unarmored long robe. His arms are positioned to hold a crossbow, one of the most advanced weapons of the day.

Height – 190 cm

Weight – 135 kg




Terracotta Armored Kneeling Archer

The armored kneeling archer was positioned at the front of the army. He wears body and shoulder armor. His arms are positioned to hold a crossbow down at his side.

Height – 125 cm

Weight – 160 kg






Famous Qin Dynasty Terracotta Archer Reproduction

Xi'an Terracotta Cavalry Soldier - In Ancient Armor

So what do you think of the Xi'an terracotta army?

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