An army fit for a king with an extraordinary history to boot.
No visit to China would be complete for us if we didn’t make the journey to Xi’an to visit one of history’s greatest discoveries. In fact, I was secretly more excited to see the Terracotta Warrior Museum then the Great Wall itself, but just slightly.
The site in itself is magnificent. But it’s the extraordinary history behind it all that has us captivated.
The site was discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers attempting to dig a well. Nearly 2,200 years later, the warriors have, quite literally, stood the test of time.
In the 3rd century BC, the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di, commissioned a thousand artisans to build him an army as well as an entertainment sight to keep him protected and amused in his afterlife.
It is estimated the army consists of approximately 8,000 soldiers of different ranks from archers to infantrymen to generals, about 800 horses, 130 chariots, a band of musicians, acrobats and bureaucrats. So far, only just over 1,000 soldiers are on display.
Each terracotta warrior is unique – built with a sense of realism from the individualized details of the face (ears, nose and other facial features) to their hair style on the back of their head, including wardrobe to associate with different rankings.
It’s thought that Qin’s enemies, kingdoms he had conquered lay east of his own, therefore his army is all facing to the East.
When the soldier were originally made, they were brightly colored – vibrant green and red and blue. Unfortunately, the current terracotta warriors on display have since oxidized dull and grey when exposed to air. Archaeologists are now taking their sweet time excavating Pit 3 in order to preserve the original vivid colors.
Over 10,000 bronzed weapons have been excavated including swords, spears, arrowheads and crossbows. Most of the original weapons were thought to have been looted or have rotted away. Some are displayed in Pit 2’s exhibition room.
To date, three underground pits have been discovered and excavated. Pit 1 holds the vast army in typical battle formation.
Pits 2 and 3 are smaller containing warriors, carts and horses along with exhibition rooms displaying artifacts extracted from the surrounding sites. Both Pits are dimly lit as it is under slow excavation.
Aside from exhibition rooms showcasing artifacts from the Pits, you can take photos with replica terracotta warriors including fake chariot, horse, costume and all. For a small fee of course.
Having now seen it with my own eyes, it’s right there (maybe even tops the list) with the Great Pyramids of Giza and the ancient city of Ephesus as one of the most amazing sites I’ve ever had the privilege to witness in my lifetime.
Planning a visit yourself? Here are a few..
Things You Should Know
- To get from Xi’an to the Terracotta Warriors, take the 5 (306) bus located at the bus parking lot in the east square of the Xian Railway Station.
- The ride should cost 7 RMB 1-way. Money is collected on the bus. Exact chance preferred.
- The Terracotta Warriors is the last stop and should take approximate 1 hour.
- There are a lot of “fake” public buses so be sure to look for the right #5-306 bus. There will usually be multiple buses lined up, a long queue and a sign posted.
- There is an outdoor food court on site. Reasonably priced and good.
- Entrance fee is 150 RMB.
- Cheesy photo booths with a mini terracotta army is available for 10 RMB per photo/ person.
- Bring a zoom lens if you wish to get decent photos of the army.
- Clear your schedule and give yourself plenty of time. It took us a leisure 3 hours to visit all major sites. The place is massive!