Xi’an – Terra Cotta Warriors

兵马俑 – Soldier and Horse Funerary Statues

Any visit to China must include a visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi’an. This is the extended tomb site of China’s great first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. At one time Xi’an was the capital of China. This appears to be funerary art, a huge warrior army to protect him in the afterlife. The army is located not far from the pyramidal mound believed to be his tomb.

There are three pits containing (estimated) more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, 150 cavalry horses. Also in the pits were officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. The pits are believed to date back to about 210BC. The existence of the army was forgotten until local farmers digging a well found it in 1974. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.


The are all individualized, with different features, facial hair and hairstyles. One theory is that each one is actually a portrait of a member of the army.  Ancient writers said building the emperor’s mausoleum city  and army required the services of 700,000 workers.

This gives you the idea how large the site is – this is the largest pit, Pit 1.
The site is covered for protection from the weather and is still being excavated.


There are a massive number of these warrior statues.


A closer look at the armour – particularly the details on the shoulders – seems to show that details there were also customized. Similarly there are differences for some of the neck scarves. One theory is that after the basic torso was created, a thin skin of clay was applied and individualized by the artisans.  TCW4-IMG_4161


As the headless soldier demonstrated, the bodies appear to have been mostly mass produced, and then the individualized heads added.TCW5-IMG_4135


There is an area at the rear where they are working on the damaged statues. Those standing in the back of the building are the ones still being painstakingly re-assembled from broken fragments.

This gives an idea of the damage to some of the warrior statues.



The statues were placed in trenches then covered with wood beams. In some places, the beams have sagged or caved in over 2,300 years, wrecking many of the statues. The lines are the seams between the individual sagging wood beams.

The Chinese archaeologists are slowly piecing the broken pieces – all the king’s horses and all the king’s men – together again.

Some examples of the statues found in the site.




The famous “kneeling archer”.TCW94-IMG_4238


Some examples from Pit 3. It appears to represent a collection of generals and a command post.



This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in China, being a great combination of spectacle and heritage. As you can see, it’s very crowded.

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