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The Terracotta Army

Listed under Archaeological Sites in Xi'an, China.

  • Photo of The Terracotta Army
  • Photo of The Terracotta Army
  • Photo of The Terracotta Army
  • Photo of The Terracotta Army
  • Photo of The Terracotta Army
  • Photo of The Terracotta Army
  • Photo of The Terracotta Army
  • Photo of The Terracotta Army
Photo of The Terracotta Army
Photo by Dave and Deb
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It is one of the most impressive archeological finds in history.  An entire army of thousands of life size clay warrior’s horses and chariots were unearthed 35 metres under the ground. It has become known as The Terracotta Warriors and is China’s most famous attraction after the Great Wall.  The warriors are amazingly life like and it feels as if they could simply wake up and start marching along as they did over two thousand years ago.

Built by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China, this underground army lay undiscovered for over 2200 years.  You know this era better as the Qin Dynasty.

How on earth could something disappear when everyone knew it existed?

Well, the tyrant Emperor Qin killed everyone that helped to build the underground army. Millions of people were enslaved over the 38 years it took to build his self indulgent monument and 700,000 people were killed to keep anyone from revealing it’s location.  It was then buried and hidden from view.  Some people were buried alive. His 3,000 concubines were forced to self-sacrifice and others people were just plain murdered.

Nobody was left alive to tell anyone where the 8000 clay warriors and horses leading bronze chariots were buried.  They were all left undiscovered for centuries while they kept guarded the Emperor in his afterlife.

Many people tried over the centuries to find the tomb and many failed.  It was well hidden and even if you did find a way in, booby traps were set up to keep anyone from entering the mausoleum 35 meters underground.  It was like something out of Indiana Jones.

Emperor Qin’s tomb is also toxic.

Even today, scientists cannot open Emperor Qin’s underground palace.  They know it is there, but there is no way to open it because the Emperor is buried in mercury (they assume) an extremely toxic and dangerous gas. Until they find a way to safely open the chamber, China is stuck waiting and biding their time. Even the Terracotta Warriors excavation is put on hold.  All the original warriors were colourfully painted when they were unearthed, but soon after being exposed to the air, the colours disappeared and faded.  Nobody wants to unearth any more warriors until they figure out a way to preserve the paint.  Apparently, they have found a way and are starting to unearth the remaining army.

If you visit in a few years time, you may see thousands more warriors.

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Written by  Dave and Deb.

Other expert and press reviews

“The next day it was off to see the terracotta army...”

I had heard mixed reviews of this sight, as it’s very popular among both locals and tourists. I mean, an underground, life-sized army of the first modern Chinese emperor Qin Shihuang? It is of course going to be packed with people. I kept my expect… Read more...

Written by  Brenda Yun. Continue reading on surfeatsleep

“One of the greatest archaeological discoveries in the world”

Terra-Cotta Army of Qin Shihuangdi, one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in the world and awesome!! The Grand Mausoleum of Qin Emperor, the first emperor of China, is protected by more than 6000 life size Terra-Cotta Warriors and horses. The e… Read more...

Written by  Donna Dawson.

“The march of Xi'an's Terracotta Army”

For all its grandiose history, my strongest memory from the time I lived in Xi'an is of its street life. Everyone used to head out to the street in their free time, partly because nobody had enough money to create a comfortable home or buy a television … Read more...

Written by press. Daily Telegraph, 1 Sept 07

“Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor”

'No doubt thousands of statues still remain to be unearthed at this archaeological site, which was not discovered until 1974. Qin (d. 210 B.C.), the first unifier of China, is buried, surrounded by the famous terracotta warriors, at the centre of a comp… Read more...

Written by press. UNECSO

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Great! Thanks for the info!

AWESOME!!! This is the coolest site I have ever read!! It is soo interesting :) I read it every day and night


Over 8,000 terracotta warriors and horses stand ready to aid the first Xian emperor as he makes the transition to the afterlife and hopefully continues his role as an emperor in death. Although he died in 210 BC, his soldiers live on, accidentally uncovered next to his mausoleum in 1974. Their existence alone boggles the mind. However, the fact that each soldier and horse are unique in every way, implying that they were fashioned after real people, is incredible.

The Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army is an incredible collection of 8,099 life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses. Buried with the first Qin Emperor in around 210BC and built to assist the Emperor in ruling in the afterlife, the figures were discovered in 1974 by local farmers. Each soldier has been individually painted and they have different hairstyles and armour depending on their rank.

The guides tell you that construction of the mausoleum and army would have taken 700,000 workers 38 years to complete.

There is now a museum on the site covering 16,300 square meters where you can see the army, some of those currently excavated are restored to their former glory and arranged in battle formations, but there are thousands yet to be dug out. An amazing site, and the sole object of most visitors' trips to Xian.


The attached museum may be no great shakes, but the warriors are truly impressive. There's a great story of the backpacker who camouflaged himself and jumped into the pit, and it took guards two hours to find him.

Imagine being buried with that lot! Almost certainly there are numerous other 'pits' nearby which have yet to be discovered - and the sight that really sets the pulse racing is the huge mound you pass on the route from Xian, the actual tomb of the emperor these soldiers are guarding. It's never been excavated, and they say that thousands of workers were buried alive inside it before being walled up.

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