The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses are the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century. Work is ongoing at this site, which is around 1.5 kilometers east of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum in Lintong, Xian, Shaanxi Province. It is a sight not to be missed by any visitor to China.
Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC), Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, had begun to work for his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his after life. A group of peasants uncovered some pottery while digging for a well nearby the royal tomb in 1974. It caught the attention of archeologists immediately. They came to Xian in droves to study and to extend the digs. They had established beyond doubt that these artifacts were associated with the Qin Dynasty (211-206 BC).
The State Council authorized to build a museum on site in 1975. When completed, people from far and near came to visit. Xian and the Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses have become landmarks on all travelers’ itinerary.
Life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum. They are replicas of what the imperial guard should look like in those days of pomp and vigor.
The museum covers an area of 16,300 square meters, divided into three sections: No. 1 Pit, No. 2 Pit, and No. 3 Pit respectively. They were tagged in the order of their discoveries. No. 1 Pit is the largest, first opened to the public on China’s National Day, 1979. There are columns of soldiers at the front, followed by war chariots at the back.
No. 2 Pit, found in 1976, is 20 meters northeast of No. 1 Pit. It contained over a thousand warriors and 90 chariots of wood. It was unveiled to the public in 1994.Archeologists came upon No. 3 Pit also in 1976, 25 meters northwest of No. 1 Pit. It looked like to be the command center of the armed forces. It went on display in 1989, with 68 warriors, a war chariot and four horses.
Altogether over 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots, and even weapons have been unearthed from these pits. Most of them have been restored to their former grandeur.
Since Oct. 1st, 2010 the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses and the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum have been combined into one large tourist area, Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Park, which also includes three other small sites opened in 2011. The Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum and the nearby three unopened sites (namely the Museum of Terracotta Acrobatics, the Museum of Terracotta Civil Officials and the Museum of Stone Armor) constitute the so-called Lishan Garden. Besides, 30 free shuttle buses have been available for visitors’ convenience to travel between the Lishan Garden and the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses from then on.
The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses is a sensational archeological find of all times. It has put Xian on the map for tourists. It was listed by UNESCO in 1987 as one of the world cultural heritages.
Terra Cotta Pit No.1 was discovered by local villagers in March 1974 who were drilling for wells on a piece of barren land. They found fragments of terracotta warriors and many bronze weapons. These discoveries received much attention and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage sent a team of archaeologists and conservation experts to perform a site visit, and organized Shaanxi archaeologists to perform a full-scale excavation of the site.
In order to protect the find, a large arched hall with a steel frame was built above the pit in 1976. Covering an area of 19,136 square yards, the hall has provided the pit with good ventilation and daylight conditions. In addition, it is burglarproof and fireproof and has temperature and humidity monitoring systems.
Inside the hall, Terra Cotta Pit No.1 is an east-west rectangular pit, measuring 252 yards long, 68 yards wide and 16 feet deep. There are five sloping entrances on both the eastern and western sides. Two side doors are installed on the northern and southern sides. Every three yards, there is a puddle wall, which separates the underground army into different columns. The walls were fortified with wooden columns, earth and reeds while the floor was covered with black bricks. Visitors to the pit will notice that the walls are lower than the terracotta warriors. This is due to a flood in Pit 1 which caused the walls to partially collapse.
There are over 6,000 terra cotta warriors and horses in Pit 1, of which 1,000 have been unearthed. They are marshaled into a well-organized battle array composed of the infantry and cavalry. The vanguard includes 210 foot soldiers divided equally into three lines. The cavalry and war chariot follow close in line, forming the main body of the battle formation. The foot soldiers are alternated with the chariots drawn by horses, lined into 38 columns. On both the northern and southern sides of the war formation stand 180 warriors which serve as flank guards. The rear guards are on the western end, with two lines facing east and another facing west. Some soldiers are armed with battle robe, and some are equipped with armor.
The war formation in Pit No.1 is elaborately set in a line and is posed so to seem prepared for battle at any moment. Every soldier and horse warrior is life-like, recapturing the formidable array of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. One can only marvel at the grand artistic ability of the remote Qin Dynasty.
During the excavation, in addition to the terracotta warriors and horses, archeologists discovered a variety of different weaponry including bronze swords, spears, crossbows, arrows and Wugou. Wugou is a type of sword produced in the State of Wu under the order of King Helu. The edge of the Wugou is curved and sharp. This feature distinguishes it from the other weaponry found in the pit.
According to the records, the construction of the terracotta warrior pits began in 221BC when China was united. During the peasant uprisings in 209BC, construction halted and at the end of the Qin Dynasty, Xiang Yu set fire to the pit, which caused the pit to collapse and many terracotta warriors and horses were destroyed.
The Pit No.2 in Xian Qin Terra Cotta Warriors Museum is located 22 yards to the northeast of Terra Cotta Pit No.1. Covering an area of 7,176 square yards, it is L-shaped, measuring 136 yards from east to west, 107 yards from north to south, and sixteen feet deep.
Pit No.2 is the most spectacular of the three pits. Compared to Pit No.1, the combat formations in Pit No.2 are more complex, and the units of armed forces are more complete. According to preliminary calculations, there are over 80 war chariots, about 1,300 terra cotta warriors and horses, and thousands of bronze weapons. It is a revelation to first discover the terra cotta general, the kneeling archer and the warrior with saddle horse in the pit. There are two sloping entrances on the northern side, and four on both ends of the eastern and western sides.
The pit can be divided into four sections.
Section 1: Lying in the eastern corner of the pit, this section has a square shape. There are four corridors around the four sides where 60 crossbowmen are in standing posture. In the center of the square, there are four east-west passageways where 160 crossbowmen are aligned in squatting position.
Section 2: Lying in the right of the pit, section 2 measures 57 yards from east to west and 52 yards from north to south. Sixty-four war chariots make up a combat formation, which is divided into eight rows. Each of the chariots is pulled by four life-sized terra-cotta horses. Three warriors are side by side behind the chariot, with the middle one driving the carriage and the others standing on either side.
Section 3: In the center of the pit, is a rectangular combat formation made up of 264 foot soldiers and eight cavalrymen, as well as 19 war chariots. There are three clusters. One cavalryman stands in front of a horse with one hand drawing a bow and the other hand holding the rein. Additionally, there are between eight and thirty-six foot soldiers standing in each chariot.
Section 4: In the left of the pit, there are three east-west passageways where all the cavalrymen are aligned. The section measures 55 yards from east to west and 25 yards from north to south. The four sections make up an impregnable fortress. Next to the pit, there is a large exhibition hall which has the most complete range of functions and is where visitors can directly witness the excavation work in Pit 2.
The bronze swords unearthed in Pit 2 measure 86cm (34 inches) long and are carved with eight symmetrical facets. Buried for over 2,000 years, they are still very sharp and smooth. What’s more surprising is that the pliability of these bronze swords is extraordinarily good. One of the swords was found bent with a 331 pound terracotta warrior on top of it. When the heavy warrior figure was removed, the sword slowly returned to its original shape.
The swords were analyzed by scientists using modern methods. They concluded that the surfaces of these Qin swords were coated with an oxide film 10 microns thick which contained 2% chrome. This is especially noteworthy since the chrome oxidation technology wasn’t actually mastered until recent times and requires both complex equipment and processes. How did the Qin people do it more than 2,000 years ago? It’s a pity that their secret recipe was not been passed down to today. We can only marvel at the extraordinary casting technique and artistic standards during that period, and at the same time do our best to unveil the mystery.
Walk 27 yards northwest from Pit 1 and visitors will arrive at Terra Cotta Warrior Pit No. 3. Covering an area of 622 square yards, it is actually a component of both Terracotta Warriors Pit 1 and Terracotta Warriors Pit 2. Built in the shape of the Chinese character “凹”, it measures 19.2 yards long from east to west, 23.4 yards wide from north to south and 15.7 feet deep.
Experts have pointed out that Pit 3 is the command center or headquarters for all the groups in the other two pits. The unearthed artifacts include 68 terracotta warriors, four horses and one chariot all arranged in a layout that is quite unique. There is a slopping passageway in the east and upon entering it, you will face a chariot and horse chamber where there is a single war chariot. This chariot and horse chamber has two corridors on the two sides. A wing room is located to the west of the left corridor. To the west of the right corridor, there are antehall and back room. All the 68 warrior figures stand orderly along the two sides of the passageways.
What’s even more exciting is that various kinds of bronze weaponry as well as gold, stone and bronze decorations were also discovered here. Most of weapons used in actual combat such as bronze spears, bronze swords, crossbows and arrowheads are well preserved.
But one thing that puzzles experts very much is that there is no terra cotta warrior of the commander-in-chief. Actually, the terra cotta warriors include fully armored foot soldiers, cavalry, chariot soldiers and crossbowmen as mentioned before. Some experts maintain that a general would take the place of the commander-in-chief in the Qin wars. Some believe that the Emperor Qin Shi Huang himself is the commander-in-chief, and his image can not be replicated in the pit in order to defend the emperor’s dignity and absolute authority. But both sayings are conjecture, and experts are doing their best to discover the true reason.
Why many of the Qin Terracotta Warriors unearthed in the Pit 3 do not have heads?
It is believed that these warriors did have heads when they were originally produced. Archaeologists specul ated that at some point vandals broke into this pit and deliberately destroyed the warriors. During the archaeological excavation, a villager revealed that he dig out half of a warrior’s head in the southern wall of what is now the Qin Terracotta Warriors Museum. He returned the head and archaeologists searched across the various body pieces for a match. Finally, they matched it to a warrior body discovered in the Pit 3. This is one example of how many of the heads have been lost outside of the pit.
Although Pit 3 is smaller than both Pit 1 and Pit 2, archaeologists spent all of 1977 finishing the excavation of this pit. Because its contents were not burned like those in the other pits, the terracotta warriors unearthed in this pit are more splendid than those found in the other two.
CNY150 (March 1 – end of November)
|Guide Services:||The exhibits are so well explained in both Chinese and English. However, visitors can also enjoy the guide services. It costs around CNY 100 to hire a guide.|
|Ticket Selling Hours:||Sell ticket from 08:30 to 17:00 (March 16-Nov.15), stop check-in at 18:35;
Sell ticket from 08:30 to 16:30 (Nov.16-March 15), stop check-in at 18:05
From Xian Xianyang International Airport:
Visitors can also hire a taxi from the airport. Remember to take the legitimate green colored taxies and the fee is about CNY 200. Please make it clear to the taxi driver that you only go to the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses and refuse to go to other scenic sites including souvenir shops.
From downtown Xian:
From Xian North Railway Station:
From Lintong District:
Time for a Visit: