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14 Amazing facts about terracotta warriors - Terracotta Warriors Tour

14 Amazing facts about terracotta warriors


The Terracotta Warriors and Horses comprises of a group of terracotta sculptures entombed as the funerary items of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China who initiated the first version of the Terracotta Warriors. The mystical nature of the clay-colored Terracotta warriors is intriguing, and as a result so many presidents and heads of countries have visited – including former Prime Minister Yoshihiro Ohira of Japan, former President Nixon of the United States, the Queen of UK, former President Chirac of France, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and so on.

The Terracotta Army is said to be one of the greatest findings of the 20th century, and is well-known all over the world. However, there are some questions being asked about this intriguing tourist site. For instance, so many people want to know ‘who built it’ and ‘how long it took to finish’. In this article, we have made a list of the top 14 amazing facts you ought to know before paying a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.


1, Who Created The Terracotta Warriors?

The construction of the Terracotta Warriors is attributed to Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, who created peace among the warring kingdoms and made them unite. Immediately he ascended the Qin’s throne in 246 BC, he gave the order for the project to begin. However, he was just a 13 year old emperor, so most of the decisions were made by his officials – prime minster Li Si (李斯) designed the project and the Senior General of Qin’s Army Zhang Han (章邯), supervised it.

Over 700,000 workers were recruited or compelled to participate, including craftsmen, peasants, and soldiers. During the course of construction, four pits were partially excavated, but today the terracotta warriors stand in three pits with one left empty. It is believed that the last pit was left uncompleted due to the sudden death of the Qin in his 50’s.


2,When Was The Terracotta Army Built?

The Terracotta Army was built almost 2,200 years ago. Like we stated earlier, China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang started the construction of the Terracotta Warriors in 246 BC after he (then aged 13) ascended the throne. Back then it was believed that statues can be endowed with life in the afterlife, so the Emperor decided to make an afterlife army for himself. Today, those soldiers built thousands of years ago are still standing erect, displaying an incredible level of craftsmanship and artistry from 2,200 years ago.


3,What Is The Sum Total Of The Terracotta Warriors?

From an estimation made in 2007, it was discovered that there were over 8,000 clay soldiers built to escort emperor Qin in the afterlife. Some clay soldiers were also found standing underneath the ground, in the pits of Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum. Asides soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses are also part of the beautiful clay army.


4,What Led To The Discovery Of The Terracotta Warriors?

In March 1974, some local farmers in Xiyang Village, Lishan Town, Lintong County, were digging a well when they suddenly discovered broken pottery pieces. Most of them thought it might have been a deserted kiln, so they decided to dig more to see if they could find some useful pottery. However, as they dug, they discovered that it was not just a kiln, because instead of pottery, they kept excavating broken life-sized terracotta warriors. This made them realize that some ancient artifacts could still be beneath the ground, so they reported to the government. After the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeological Team excavated the place, the terracotta warriors and horses were discovered.


5,There Are Three Vaults In The Terracotta Army Museum

Presently, the museum chiefly comprises of three pits and one exhibition hall: Vault One, Vault Two, Vault Three, and the Exhibition Hall of the Bronze Chariots.

  • Vault 1:This vault is the biggest and most incredible (about 230 x 60 m) — the size of an airplane hangar. Overall, there are up to 6,000 terracotta figures of soldiers and horses. However, only about 2,000 are on display.
  • Vault 2: This is the best part of the vaults (about 96 x 84 m). It  reveals the mystery of the ancient army parade. Vault 2 has more army units with archers, mixed forces, cavalry and chariots.
  • Vault 3:This vault is quite small, however it is of great importance (21 x 17 m). Vault 3 contains only 68 terracotta figures, and all of them are officials. It acts as the command post.
  • The Exhibition Hall of the Bronze Chariots: Inside this hall, you’ll find the world’s biggest and most sophisticated ancient bronze artifacts. One carriage has about 3,400 parts and 1,234 kg. Also, there are 1,720 pieces of golden and silver ornaments, weighing 7 kg, on each carriage.


6,Terracotta Soldiers are Taller Than Present-Day Chinese People

The Terracotta Soldiers are taller than the people of present-day China. Facts gotten from the excavation site reveals that the shortest figure of the Terracotta Army has a height of 70 inches (1.78 meters) while the tallest is over 80 inches (two meters) in height. All the warriors have an average height of 75 inches (1.90 meters), and this makes them taller than modern Chinese people.

Does this prove that the people of ancient times were much taller? Not exactly. The historical fact records shows that the average height of people in the Qin Dynasty of old was around 65 inches (1.7 meters). This is quite similar to what is obtainable today. The terracotta soldiers were built to be taller for two reasons. Back in those days, the most preferred way to battle was through close combat, which required tall and strong warriors. Also, the taller terracotta warriors is a more effective representation of the greatness of this army which was once powerful.


7,How Long It Took To Build The Terracotta Warriors

This clay army created in 246 BC or 247 BC, has lasted for over 2200 years. The historical records written by Sima Qian (145–90 BCE), reveals that it took almost 40 years to create these clay warriors. Furthermore, lots of people believe that the project was abandoned halfway because the emperor Qin Shi Huang died suddenly and all the terracotta warriors had to be buried with his mausoleum.


8,Why Were Terracotta Warriors Made?

In the days of old, people strongly believed in the afterlife, and human sacrifice was prevalent. Now, when the King or a noble dies, items including jewellery, silk, satin, weapons, and even slaves are buried alongside the master and most of the selected persons are compelled to commit suicide and follow their master to the afterlife. While some of the slaves reluctantly drink the poisoned wine and die, some others consider it as an honour from their master. Human sacrifices were discovered at the tomb of the King before Qin Shi Huang, around 550BCE.

After Qin Shi Huang unified the warring kingdoms, it was discovered that the war had greatly decreased the population. Even though the king really desired immortality, he still wanted to prepare for the afterlife. This made him create a huge army which would guard his tomb and signify that this his reign would not end, even after he dies. Asides that, the terracotta warriors were also built to serve as alternatives for actual human sacrifices and showcase the greatness of Qin’s empire.


9,Different Facial Features of the Soldiers

It is very hard to find two identical figures in the three pits. Each of the soldiers have unique facial features, which means there are 8,000 different faces in total! As  matter of fact, only eight moulds were used in making the profile of each soldier’s head. The 8,000 unique faces were carved by craftsmen one at a time, and it definitely required a huge amount of manpower. The exceptional modelling skill of the Qin Dynasty artists is shown in the facial expressions created for each soldier.


10,The Figures Were Once Colourful

Presently, the terracotta warriors appear to be grey in colour. However, that is not their original colour. After they were built 2,200 years ago, they were painted with black hair, beard, and eyebrows like real persons. Even their uniforms were painted in bright colours like green, scarlet, black, and purple. The moist environment underground was more suitable to the preservation of the paint. However, as the figures were unearthed, the humidity difference led to cracks and twists on the surfaces, which eventually caused the colours to fade away.


11,There Are Other Figures Asides The Soldiers

After the discovery of the Terracotta Army, over 8,000 soldiers, 670 horses, and 130 chariots have been unearthed. Other objects such as Terracotta musicians, acrobats, concubines, birds like waterfowl, cranes, and ducks have also been discovered in recent pits. It widely believed that Emperor Qin wanted the same palace luxury and special treatment in his afterlife.


12,The Number years It Took To  Build This museum

The statues were built by 700,000 labourers within a period of 40 years. This project began in 246 BC when Qin Shi Huang ascended the Qin State throne. However, it ended 4 years after his death, when the Han Dynasty started.

In order to complete the construction of the terracotta army and tomb complex, over 700,000 labourers worked continuously for almost 40 years.


13,No Two Figures Are Identical

If you look closely, you’ll realize that no two figures in the Terracotta Army look alike. You will be intrigued by the amazing craftsmanship! Each of the  warriors have individual facial features. In fact, the infantry, archers, generals, and cavalry are unique in their expressions, hairstyles, and clothing.


14,More Terracotta Figures Will Be Discovered

The terracotta warriors site is still undergoing excavation. Out of the four pits presently available, only three has been excavated. Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum covers nearly 56 square kilometres, so majority of the site is still available for excavation and more terracotta figures are yet to be recovered.


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