Terracotta Army

So we all know I’m a great big nerd. Yeah, I get it.

One of the major draws that brought me to China was the history here.  It’s simply not something we see much of in the good ol’ US of A. Namely because if you want to see much by way of ‘history’ in the States that’s over a couple of centuries, you’re kinda SOL – we did a fine job of destroying the stuff that was here before.


I wanted Xi’an to be one of my first stops while exploring places in China (besides Dalian where I reside for a couple more months).  Why?  THE FREAKING TERRACOTTA ARMY, THAT’S WHY!!  I’ve dreamed of seeing these warriors since I was a little girl.


I know, I know – what kind of little girl dreams about seeing ancient artifacts?  Yeah, the kind who go to China, that’s who!  Considering I’ve been dreaming of this for so very long, this post is gonna be awfully spammy, but it WILL include pictures, and lo! You even get a video!



 in 1974, one of the farming communities sent 4 men out to dig a new well. Something about agriculture and people needing water.  These four men began to dig,but they didn’t find water.
They found clay warriors. (read:  The Terracotta Army)
At the time, the rest of the village pushed them to ignore their find and keep digging for water.  The four men refused.  They started going to the government. Then up the chain. and up the chain.  They felt they had discovered something significant.  Their refusal caused them to be kicked out of the village and entirely ostracized, but they truly believed they found something important.
Someone in Bejjing agreed with them.
By 1979, the government had stepped in to start helping excavate, and the Army became known throughout the world as the 9th Wonder. All of a sudden, this small agricultural community developed a booming tourist economy, and the city grew exponentially as a result.
I got to meet one of said farmers while I visited the Terracotta – the youngest of the four.
Notice the mild look of terror?  Yeah, I may have squeaked at him. But I tried not to… I believe he sensed my restraint.
Ahem. Where was I?
Oh yes! For the Warriors themselves, they were left (mostly) where they were found.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Two thousand years ago, the first Qin Emperor was not only the first of the Dynasty, but also the first to create an army with which to guard him in the after life. Other Emperor’s followed suit, just not quite in such a grandiose manner. (EDIT:  I should have looked a couple of things up first – it was two thousand years ago – not fourthousand like I originally wrote – I apologize!!)
So, the Emperor chose the spot for his final rest well.  There were rolling hills outside of Xi’an (his palace was located inside of the City Walls).  These hills were considered lucky.  And we would call them Li Mountains, but that somehow translated to Black Horse or Running Black Horse Mountains.

There were hot springs located in the mountains, and the Emperor’s wives and concubines would often spend extended amount of time here. They say because of the ‘good luck’ but I’m pretty sure those hot springs had something to do with it.
And come on! Look at that view!
So he chose his final resting place to be at the base of the mountains.
The work on the Warriors began when he was just 13 years old, when he first came to power, and extended to when he passed away at 49.  In that time, well over 8,000 Warriors – complete with horses, chariots, carts, harnesses, and weapons – were created.
Let’s stop here for a moment, though.  Seriously… who let’s a 13 year old decide he wants a life-size clay army, and then DO IT?? I mean, sure, he could have them executed for telling him ‘no’ (it’s good to be king), but STILL!!  He was the first one to decide to do this, so I’m wondering if it was more like some kind of strategy game like Warhammer, but instead of mini’s… well…
I mean, c’mon… Pretty sure only a geek would stick with something like this for 36 years.
Each warrior was unique and expertly crafted, down to the wrinkles in his clothes and his facial hair.  Some of the clothes were torn and in less than great condition, others wore finely grafted garments.
Just like you’d see in a real army.
Even the BOOTS were detailed!  Flat-footed for the regular foot soldier, the grunt (on the right), and those with the boot that curved up (on the left) was of higher ranking, with the boot molding to the arch and providing more support.
All made by hand from clay. These artisans were spectacularly gifted.

They built the ‘museum’ where the Warriors stood, directly upon the excavation site.  Seemed the easiest thing for them to do.  They have 4 ‘museums’ on the grounds.  The first of which holds roughly 6,000 warriors, and was about the size of a football stadium or a giant airplane hanger.

The Warriors were all found facing East.  This was, again, considered lucky.  They were at attention, standing (most of them standing) in rows.
Almost all of them.  Then I noticed THIS creepy jerk staring at me…
Seriously, dude… stop staring… It’s creepy…
For the record, all along the edges, you can see the huge crowds of people that were there the day I came here. It was insane… But looking down at the Terracotta, I just couldn’t bring myself to care.
Not all the Warriors were found standing.  The walls around them had broken down in some areas, and some of them had been crushed.  Because they are all out in open air like this, sometimes they start to breakdown on their own simply because it’s clay.
So they set up a triage section right there.
The Warriors would be wrapped in Saran wrap, and lined up. There was a styrofoam box in front of them, holding what were believed to be their pieces. With so many Warriors, it really is like a giant jigsaw puzzle they are trying to puzzle out.  Those pieces could be from any of the others immediately around them.
Clearly, the Emperor should have had more clerics made… I wonder if he did have any medic types? Or if they just haven’t been found yet.

As I said before, they had horses as well. Not the type that you would find in the field, but instead the type the armies used when riding to war.  Even the horses had unique differences as well – not just the men who lead them.

Of special interest, not only was there so much detail to each warrior, but on the weapons buried with them, you could still see the maker’s mark.  Why?
Well, that mark was so if the sword (or spear, or harness, or whatever) broke in battle, the manager or the manufacturer would be executed as a result.  It was a way to make sure the craftsmanship was top of the line.
Now pause for a moment, and think about this.  They required those same marks on the weapons buried with the soldiers, and I believe, the soldiers themselves…. This 13 year old was NOT playing around – do it right, or die.  Literally.
In the second building, there were roughly 2,000 Warriors, however, the government had realized that the clay was degrading too much to leave everyone out and exposed to the elements, and the technology is simply not fully in place to preserve these artifacts. To keep them from breaking down further, they were re-buried while the government worked to gather funds and the necessary technology to display them appropriately and without harm.  That’s what the 2nd building was – seeing the Warriors at rest, or rather, the ‘barracks’ so to speak.

They did have a handful of the warriors in display in the 2nd building, these have been reconstructed, and are in glass cases. But we were able to get close to them, and you can see the different postures and poses, even the different clothes.


Building 3 held the honor guard.  These were the only warriors found NOT facing East.  They faced in on one another, as they would outside the Emperor’s throne room, and at the head, a man stood on a Chariot lead by 4 horses.  The chariot had been made of wood and has long since degraded, but they found evidence of its presence as well as evidence of leather harnesses from the horses to the man.

In this room, with the honor guard, they left it a sort of ‘before and after’ repair sort of situation.  On one side, they had repaired the Warriors, erecting them as they were supposed to be set, and other side, showing how they had crumbled with time.


The last room held bronze chariots.  These were actually found at the mouth of the Emperor’s mausoleum, but were moved to be with the rest of the Warriors. These were done in all bronze, and were NOT to scale, but they are truly spectacular.  They weighed in at roughly 300 kgs (about 660 lbs) each.

The first chariot would lead the way in a procession, but the Emperor would not actually sit in it – it’s too wide open.  Other officials would, but this one was for show.  The second chariot would be where the Emperor would sit.  Not only was it armored and enclosed (hard to tell if the Emperor was there or if it was someone else) but the way the windows were set, it allowed air circulation for whoever was inside.


I didn’t have a chance to visit the mausoleum of the Emperor itself. The Emperor was entombed with a great deal of mercury, so much so, the very air around him was poison (probably lead to more than a few rumors about booby traps and curses).  The mercury preserved his body, however, so he was mummified – not something standard in China nor was it intended. Perhaps the mercury WAS there as a deterant to wouldbe graverobbers – I’m not sure on that one! It was located a couple miles away and I didn’t have an opportunity to go into the actual tomb (or rather, the museum around the tomb).  We drove by it as we were leaving the Terracotta.

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