This subterranean army of thousands of warriors, horses and chariots remained undiscovered until 1974, when a group of farmers stumbled upon a treasure trove of ancient pottery while digging a well. The discovery spurred interest in archaeologists and the area was excavated uncovering one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century, with statues still being unearthed today. Located just outside of Xi’an within the burial grounds of Qin, the first emperor of China, the Terracotta Warriors are thought to have been arranged in military formation to protect the leader in the afterlife.
The incredible discovery of the Emperor Qin’s underground army has put Xi’an on the map, and as such we have included a stop to see the Terracotta Warriors on all of our visits to the city. Housed within a large complex, the Terracotta Warriors are divided into three pits to make for easier viewing. We start our tour of the Terracotta Warriors at the smallest pit, Pit 3, which contains 72 warriors and horses and is believed by archaeologists to have been the army headquarters.
Our next stop is at Pit 2, which contains over 100 warriors and horses, and is still a site of excavation. Here you also have the opportunity to see five of the soldiers close up, so you can really appreciate the incredible detail that went into sculpting each individual statue, from their facial expressions, to armour and even the individual threads on their footwear. While the size of the discovery is impressive in itself, what has truly astounded archaeologists is the minute detail and unique characteristics of each individual warrior, with no two faces alike.
Finish up at the largest pit, Pit 1, which reveals the sheer size of the Terracotta army. Housed in an aircraft hanger, it is believed to house roughly 6000 warriors and horses, with under half of that number actually on display.