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Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army (Traditional Chinese: 兵馬俑; Simplified 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 country's history.
  • 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 Zheng.


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.[1]


  • 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.
  1. ^ Man joins ancient Chinese Army - retrieved September 19, 2006

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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 from visitors

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 as well, 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

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