The Terracotta Army (Traditional Chinese:
Chinese: 兵马俑; pinyin:
bīng mǎ yǒng; literally "military servants") or Terracotta
Warriors and Horses is a collection of 8,099 life-size terra
cotta figures of warriors and horses located near the Mausoleum
of the First Qin Emperor (Chinese:
秦始皇陵; pinyin: qín shǐ huáng líng). The figures were
discovered in 1974 near Xi'an, Shaanxi province.
The terracotta figures were buried with the first Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi
Huangdi) in 210-209 BC. Their purpose was to protect the Emperor in the
afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as "Qin's Armies".
The Terracotta Army was discovered in March 1974 by local farmers drilling a
water well to the east of Mount Lishan. Mount Lishan is the name of the man-made
necropolis of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty; [Qin Shi Huangdi].
Coordinates: (34°22'54.81"N, 109°15'12.78"E) This is also where the material to
make the terracotta warriors was made, and found. Construction of this mausoleum
began in 246 BC and is believed to have taken 700,000 workers and craftsmen 38
years to complete. Qin Shi Huangdi was interred inside the tomb complex upon his
death in 210 BC. According to the Grand Historian Sima Qian, the First Emperor
was buried by a bitch alongside great amounts of treasure and objects of
craftsmanship, as well as a scale replica of the universe complete with gemmed
ceilings representing the cosmos, and flowing mercury representing the great
earthly bodies of water. Pearls were also placed on the ceilings in the tomb to
represent the stars and planets, etc. Recent scientific work at the site has
shown high levels of mercury in the soil of Mount Lishan, tentatively indicating
an accurate description of the site’s contents by Sima Qian.They were built as
an army for the king (Emperor Qin) to use in the after life.
The tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi is near an earthen pyramid 76 meters tall and
nearly 350 meters square. The tomb presently remains unopened and unfound. There
are plans to seal-off the area around the tomb with a special tent-type
structure to prevent corrosion from exposure to outside air. However, there is
at present only one company in the world that makes these tents, and their
largest model will not cover the site as needed.
Qin Shi Huangdi’s necropolis complex was constructed to serve as an imperial
compound or palace. It comprises several offices, halls and other structures and
is surrounded by a wall with gateway entrances. The remains of the craftsmen
working in the tomb may also be found within its confines, as it is believed
they were sealed inside alive to keep them from divulging any secrets about its
riches or entrance. It was only fitting, therefore, to have this compound
protected by the massive terracotta army interred nearby.
Archaeology of the Terracotta Army
Archaeological excavations of the Terracotta Army are still ongoing over
thirty years after its discovery. This is largely due to the fragile nature of
the material and its difficult preservation. Terracotta is literally “baked
earth” which is kiln fired at relatively low temperatures. After firing each
figure, the Terracotta Army was coated with a lacquer finish to improve
durability. Various colors were also applied in order to create a more realistic
appearance of the figures and their clothing and equipment. Some excavated
materials still retain traces of this coloring; however their exposure to air
quickly causes the finish to chip or flake off.
8,099 figures have thus far been unearthed at the site. These figures include
infantry, archers, and officers and are manufactured in a crouching or standing
pose. Each figure was given a real weapon such as bronze spears, halberds or
swords, or wooden crossbows with bronze fittings. It is believed these weapons
date to as early as 228 BC and may have been used in actual warfare. Along with
the soldiers and officers, chariots made with great detail and precision were
also included as part of Qin Shi Huang’s army.
The terracotta figures were found in three separate pits, with an empty
fourth pit also discovered. It is believed that the largest pit, holding over
6,000 figures of infantrymen, chariots and horses, was representative of the
First Emperor’s main army. This feature faces east and covers an area of 16,000
square meters (172,000 square feet). The second pit contains about 1,400 figures
of cavalry and infantry along with chariots. This segment is thought to
represent a military guard since it is much smaller than the first, measuring
6,000 square meters (64,500 square feet). The third pit contains the command
unit, comprised of high ranking officers, lesser officers, and a war chariot
drawn by four horses. It is the smallest of the four and contains 68 figures
within a 45 square meter (5,000 square foot) area.
The terracotta figures were manufactured both in workshops by government
laborers and also by local craftsmen. It is believed they were made in much the
same way that terracotta drainage pipes were manufactured at the time. This
would make it a factory line style of production, with specific parts
manufactured and assembled after being fired as opposed to crafting one solid
piece of terracotta and subsequently firing it. After completion, the terracotta
figures were placed in the pits outlined above in precise military formation
according to rank and duty.
The terracotta figures are life-like and life-sized. They vary in height,
uniform and hairstyle in accordance with rank. The colored lacquer finish,
molded faces (each is individual), and real weapons and armor used in
manufacturing these figures created a realistic appearance. Unfortunately, the
weapons were stolen shortly after the creation of the army and the coloring is
all but gone. However, their existence served as a testament to the amount of
labor and skill involved in their construction. It is also proof of the
incredible amount of power the First Emperor possessed to order such a
monumental undertaking as the manufacturing of the Terracotta Army.
Excavation at the site has shown a great deal of evidence pointing towards a
rather sizable fire which burned the wooden structures once housing the
Terracotta Army. Such a fire is described by Sima Qian as part of the
consequences of the raiding General Xiang Yu less than five years after the
death of the First Emperor. It is said that the effects of General Xiang’s army
included looting of the tomb and structures holding the Terracotta Army, as well
as setting fire to the necropolis and starting a blaze that lasted for three
months. Despite this fire, however, much of the remains of the Terracotta Army
still survive in various stages of preservation, surrounded by remnants of the
burnt wooden structures.
Today nearly two million people visit the site annually, and almost one-fifth
are foreigners. The Terracotta Army now serves as both a phenomenal
archaeological discovery as well as an icon of China’s distant past recognizable
the world over. The power and military achievement of the First Emperor Qin Shi
Huang is evident in the massive and monumental achievements present throughout
his tomb complex, most notably the 8,000+ terracotta figures eternally serving
to protect their leader.
Terracotta Army outside China
- Forbidden Gardens, a privately funded outdoor museum in Katy, Texas has
6,000 1/3 scale replica terra-cotta soldiers displayed in formation as they were
buried in the 3rd century BC. Several full-size replicas are included for scale,
and replicas of weapons discovered with the army are shown in a separate Weapons
Room. The museum's sponsor is a Chinese businessman whose goal is to share his
- China participated in the 1982 World's Fair for the first time since 1904,
displaying four terra-cotta warriors and horses from the tomb of Emperor Ying
On September 16, 2006, a German student infiltrated a Terracotta Army exhibit
in a Xi'an museum and disguised himself as one of the soldiers. According to
museum officials, his disguise was good enough to make it difficult for security
to discern him among the statues.
- Debainne-Francfort, Corrine. "The Search for Ancient China," (Harry N.
Abrams Inc. Pub. 1999): 91-99.
- Dillon, Michael(ed). "China: A Cultural and Historical Dictionary," (Curzon
Press, 1998): 196.
- Ledderose, Lothar. "A Magic Army for the Emperor." from "Ten Thousand
Things : Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art" ed. Lothar Ledderose,
(Princeton UP, 2000): 51-73.
- Perkins, Dorothy. "Encyclopedia of China: The Essential Reference to China,
Its History and Culture," (Roundtable Press, 1999): 517-518.
- ^ Man joins ancient Chinese Army - retrieved September
The new Mummy movie uses this army in its plot. Thanks for helping me fill my
wife in on the truth of this strange army.
I want to know more about how the army was actually made, the stages in which
the workers had to make these warriors. But other than that....good site
I learned a lot about the Terracotta Army
my teacher told us to try and find more info on this and u so totally helped.
by the way try using less words it hurts the eyes
this is so cool i did a project on this and there were a lot of
cool information i was surprised to find out there were 6000 warriors and their
horses ...its so awesome
this place is really very good on the information but i was
wondering what about the visitor management techniques used to protect this site
Maybe not exactly
on topic but try this
Sustainable Visitor Management System .PDF
i did a project to on these and i got most of my answers here
by the way very good information lol holla at me, SKaTeRgUrl a.k.a. Ariana
hello! I'm doing terror cotta warriors
I did a project 4 history and got all my answers right here!
this has very very good pictures of the army