Just outside of Xi’an, the incredible discovery of Emperor Qin’s underground army in 1974 put this Chinese city on the map and simply cannot be missed on any visit here. But how much do you really know about this famous subterranean army of Terracotta Warriors? Test your knowledge with our 10 facts about the Terracotta Warriors.
1. The subterranean army is said to have been completed in 210 BC and laid untouched for more than 2000 years until it was rediscovered by a group of Chinese farmers in 1974 who stumbled across it accidentally while digging for a well. The land is said to have been rejected by other farmers due to its poor farming quality. This is because of all the kiln ash and shards of pottery it contained.
2. It is estimated that over 700,000 labourers were forced to help in the construction of Emperor Qin’s tomb complex and his underground army, which took roughly 40 years to complete. Unfortunately, it is believed that the workforce was either put to death or buried alive with the Emperor so that the mausoleum would remain a secret.
3. With an army of over 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 670 horses, plus some acrobats and strongmen too, there is no denying the monumental size of this archaeological discovery.
4. While the sheer size of the Terracotta Army is impressive in itself, what has truly astounded archaeologists is the minute detail and unique characteristics of each individual warrior. Archaeologists believe that the soldiers were made from eight different moulds. They were then given individual distinguishing facial features so no two were alike.
5. The soldiers also stand at different heights depending on the rank they held in the army, with generals being the tallest.
6. While the soldiers themselves were made from clay, archaeologists have also excavated an estimated 40,000 bronze weapons. Armed with axes, spears, crossbows, and arrowheads this army would have been well prepared for the Emperor’s said after-life.
7. Though today the soldiers are of an earthen hue they are said to have originally been decorated in colourful lacquer. Over the centuries, this has unfortunately now faded away.
8. Despite the belief that horse saddles were invented by the Sarmatians in 365AD, the terracotta horses discovered here were saddled challenging the theory.
9. In 1987 the site was named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
10. The tomb of Emperor Qin has yet to be opened and there is no telling what it might contain. There are concerns about the preservation of the remains inside and dangerous booby traps if it were to be opened. But ancient writings suggest the tomb is “filled with models of palaces, pavilions, and offices.”
Read our facts about the Terracotta Warriors and want to see them for yourself? Visit the site in Xi’an on the majority of our China tours.