In 221 B.C., Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty established the first centralized feudal dynasty in China. After his death, he was buried at the northern foot of Lisan Hill in the east of Lintong county. The tomb is a rammed-soil mound, occupying an area of eight square kilometers. This is the first and the largest imperial mausoleum in China still remain to be excavated.
The world-famous Terra cotta Warriors and Horses Museum is located about 1.5 k.m. east of Emperor Qinshi Huang’s Mausoleum, Lintong County, Shaanxi province, which covers a total area of 20 hectares. It is a sight not to be missed by any visitor to China, Rarely is an archeological find actually a “discovery,” as often labeled. Triumphs, when they come at all, follow years of careful research, exploration, and just plain dirty, dusty digging. But what happened in 1974, a few miles outside of Xian, China, was very different. While digging a well, three brothers accidentally came upon one of the 20th century’s greatest archeological treasures. There, buried just a few feet below the surface, were found the first of over 8,000 life-size terracotta figures of armed warriors, horses and chariots. After archaeological excavation and careful research, it turned out to be a pit in which were buried terra-cotta warriors and horses from the Qin Dynasty. In 1976, after drilling, another two pits were found one by one nearby. It’s a series of attendant pits of the mausoleum. They were named Pit 1, 2 and 3 according to the timing of discovery with a total area of 22,780 square metres.
The scenery in the museum is quite elegant and delightful. Among the three pits, Pit 1 is the largest one. More than 6,000 clay warriors and horses could be unearthed from Pit 1. All of them are life-like. Pit 1 is in an oblong shape of tunnel. It is 230 metres long from east to west and 62 metres wide from north to south. It is 5 metres deep, which occupies an area of 14,260 square metres. Inside the tunnel, there are ten earth-rammed partition walls. The floors are bricks-paved. The terra-cotta warriors and horses in Pit 1 are arrayed in an oblong battle formation of the Qin Dynasty, facing east, they look healthy , strong and have different facial expressions, showing Emperor Qingshihuang’s strong determination of wiping out the other six states and unifying the whole country. To the east end of the pit stand facing east three rows of terra-cotta warriors in battle tunics and puttees, 70 in each row with total number of 210 put altogether. Armed with bows and arrows, they form the vanguard. The ten rammed partition walls cut Pit 1 into eleven latitudinal passage ways. There are 38 columns of warriors in the east with horse-drawn chariots in the centre. The armour-clad warriors carrying long-shaft weapons are probably the main body of the formation and show the main force.
Pit 2 is situated 20 metres to the north of Pit 1. The Pit is L–shaped and composed of four different mixed military forces in four rows. It is recorded that there were more than 1, 000 pieces of pottery figures, 500 horse-driven chariots and saddled horses. The pit is about 6,000 square metres.
Pit 3 is situated 25 metres to the north of Pit 1 and to the west of Pit 2. Tthe pit is in the concave shape with 520 square metres. From the pit were discovered one chariot, four terra-cotta horses and 68 clay armoured warriors. In Pit 3 were only unearthed one kind of weapon called “shu”, which had no blades and are siad to be used by the guards of honour. Discovered also in this pit were a re- maining deer-horn and animal bones. This is maybe the site where sacrificial offerings and war prayers were practiced.
The Terra cotta Warriors and Horses is the most magnificent archaeological discovery in the 20th century. It is also a reflection of Chinese people’s wisdom and artful skill two thousand years ago. Thousands of real weapons were unearthed from these terra-cotta army pits. These weapons were exquisitely made. Some of them are still very sharp since their surface were treated with chromium. They are as bright as new, though buried underground for more than 2,000 years. This indicates that Qin Dynasty’s metallurgical technology and weapon-manufacturing technique already had reached quite a high level. In 1980, two teams of large painted bronze chariots and horses were unearthed 20 metres west of the mausoleum. Together with Terra cotta Warriors, they are called the eighth wonder of the world. The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses was listed by UNESCO as one of the world cultural heritages in December, 1987. It has put Xian on the map for tourists. It is a sensational archeological find of all times.
Considered the first emperor of China, Qin successfully defeated the independent kingdoms that had been in a continuous military struggle in what is known as the Warring States Period to unify China into one state in 221 BC. He implemented numerous measures aimed at modernizing the state, including creating a standardized system of measuring units and a common currency and using a common script. He also created a set of fortifi cations in Northern China that would later become the Great Wall
The terracotta warriors are located in Xi’an, a 2-hour flight from Beijing. If you want to go straight from the airport to the museum and the pits, take a shuttle to the railway station and, from there, bus no. 5 (306), bus no. 914 or bus no. 915 all the way to the end of the line. If you are in downtown Xi’an, bus no. 5 (306) or 307 would be your choice. If you are in neither of these locations, try and make it there either way. Between the terracotta warriors and the Emperor’s mausoleum, you move around in prepaid shuttles (they are included in your ticket).
The most fascinating thing about the terracotta warriors is probably the fact that each of them is unique, with particular characteristics, facial traits, painted colors or clothes. It is really like someone stopped history at one point and everyone was frozen as they were. If your trip is focused around Beijing, it is really worthwhile to cut a day from your Beijing itinerary and fl y out to Xi’an for this. It is not everyday that you get a chance to see in person thousands of soldiers in position, standing ready to defend their ruler.