The Army of Terracotta Warriors

Xi'an, China | Terracotta Warriors

As far as pre-death preparations go, the Army of Terracotta Warriors take burial planning to the extreme.

Soon after Qin Shi Huang became Emperor in the 3rd century BC he ordered the vast tomb to be built. He spent the afterlife buried with a mighty clay army of life-sized soldiers, a huge feat of construction that lay hidden for over two thousand years.

In 1975 the tomb was discovered by some local farmers and the individual warriors have been painstakingly excavated.

To date about 2000 figures have been revealed, there may be around 6000 in total, an incredible number when you consider each warrior is different, each one an individual character.

Xi'an, China | Terracotta WarriorsWe took a tourist bus out to the Terracotta Warriors from in front of Xi’an railway station, this makes it easy for the independent traveller to get to the pits which are some 40 kilometres east of the city.

From the drop-off point a pleasant trail leads through the ticket barriers {it’s not cheap!} to the pits.

Declining a tour guide, the five of us used our guide-book to make our way around the site, beginning at pit 3, moving on to pit 2 with its larger pit.

Pit 2 was great as a few of the warriors were in glass display cases allowing you to get up close and personal with them, enabling you to see the detail and craftsmanship, as well as the traces of colour.

It is amazing to think that they were all brightly painted, how animated they must have looked.

Xi'an, China | Terracotta WarriorsIt is under the roof of pit 1 that you really grasp the scale of the tomb, here are the bulk of the warriors and their horse-drawn wooden chariots {the wooden chariots have long rotted away}, line after line of them, ready to march.

Interestingly many of the soldiers had bronze weapons coated with chrome, chrome was ‘invented’ last century, the Chinese mastered the skill over two millennia ago.

Warriors in pit 1

Warriors in pit 1

One of the most fascinating aspects of the warriors was their appearance. Their individual hairstyles and clothing give a compelling insight into how the ancient Chinese dressed and wore their hair.

To be honest, I was expecting to be underwhelmed by the Terracotta Warriors.

While I found the history behind them fascinating I didn’t think the pits would be so dramatic.

I was very wrong, the figures were bewitching, from the expressions on their faces to the detail in their clay costumes.

The huge number of soldiers and the cast of other characters, the acrobat, the horses left me thinking about them for days.

This is history with visually human insight.



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Xi'an Army of Terracotta Warriors


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By Rachel Davis

8 Responses

  1. brookenado says:

    It’s so mind blowing, isn’t it? I can only imagine the feeling of standing in the pits there. Loved the post, I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on them & seeing your fantastic photos!

  2. davegct says:

    Wow, one of the great sights to see on this whole earth. So interesting that the Emperor was willing to go to such lengths to ensure his safety in the afterlife! I didn’t know they were painted. Did they say anything about who did the carving? Must have been a big number of carvers. And how are they so well-preserved?

  3. Sartenada says:

    Dream place for a visit. Last year we had exposition of Terracotta warriors in Finland; so I got some idea about them.

    • It was excellent to see them in situ but I think getting up close, as I hope you would have been able to, at an exhibition would be a equally good. I hope you get too see them there too.

  4. trixpin says:

    Wow. That must have been so dramatic. What a lot of work went into those … I can’t begin to imagine what it looks like close up.

  5. Charles says:

    One of my dream places to visit! I don’t think I realized that each of the characters was different.