The Terracotta Army, also known as The Terracotta Warriors, is one of the most important archaeological sites worldwide. This subterranean standing guard reveals the mysteries of ancient China that date back more than 2,000 years ago.

Just as many other great discoveries, the Terracotta Army was discovered by accident in 1974 near the city of Xi’an, in Shaanxi province, China, while peasants were drilling a well. The construction, part of which still remains buried, consists of three main vaults.

All of them were constructed in a close distance to a pyramid shape mausoleum of King Qin Shi Huang (meaning “the first emperor of Qin”), who was China’s first unifier (259 B.C. – 210 B.C.). The tomb was ready just after he died.

Researchers suggest that the statues of terracotta soldiers and horses, presented in battle formation, were based on real warriors, who served in the emperor’s army. They believe they were created as a show of his glory and that Qin Shi Huang expected his rule to continue in his afterlife.

Vault one is the most magnificent and the largest one, as it covers an area of 14,000 square meters. An army of 6,000 life-size warriors, of whom only 2,000 are on display, as well as their horses, are facing east and are prepared for a battle.

The first three rows of archers form the vanguard, which is followed by the main force of soldiers holding spears, swords, dagger-axes and other weapons. They are accompanied by 35 wooden chariots, which were disintegrated through the centuries. Vault one opened for visitors in 1979.

Vault two, located to the north of vault one, contains a number of 1,300 warriors and horses. It was excavated in 1976. The expressions, hairstyles, footwear and costumes are given in every detail.

Vault three, the smallest one, contains 72 high-ranking officers and their horses. These are considered to have been the army headquarters. Many of the figures have no heads.

Other non-military terracotta figures were found in other vaults, including civil servants, acrobats and musicians meant for entertainment. What’s exceptional in this construction is that every figure presents substantial differences in facial features and expression.

Moreover, innovative conservation techniques that have been performed on recently excavated figures reveal that the warriors were decorated in bright colors.

This stunning discovery remains one of the top attractions in China until today. The Qin (pronounced “chin”) tomb terracotta warriors and horses depict the greatness of an erstwhile glorious dynasty that steps into the spotlight and amazes the modern world.


  3. Featured image: Ovedc / CC BY-SA

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