The Terra-cotta Warriors

Tour Day Seven: Friday, April 27, 2001

The Discovery

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This is one of the farmers who discovered the Terra-cotta Warriors.

They were digging a well ... and the rest is history. He says the government didn't give them any rewards for their find. But this man receives tips for his signature on the books they sell at the Circle Vision Theater.

The story goes like this: according to the book Terra-Cotta Warriors & Horses of Emperor Qin.

In the early spring of 1974, a number of peasants from Xiyang Village of Yanzhai Township in Lintong County accidentally discovered some ancient bronze weapons and pieces of broken terra-cotta armoured warriors while sinking a well at the northern foot of Mt. Lishan 35 km. from Xi'an, the famous cultural city in China's history.

No one had ever expected that this discovery would turn over a most miraculous and brilliant leaf in China's archaeology, add another wondrous sight to the history of human civilization and unfold a unique and majestic spectacle before the world.

After years of drilling, excavation and textual research, the site was proved to be an attendant burial pit of the huge army of the terra-cotta armoured warriors and horses in the mausoleum of China's first feudal emperor Qin Shi Huang (259-210 B. C.). By 1976 three such pits had been found. They were numbered Pits 1, 2, and 3 respectively in order of discovery, with a total area of over 20,000 sq. meters ( about 180,000 sq. feet). There were buried nearly 8,000 terra-cotta armoured warriors and horses, and more than 100 chariots — all life-sized.

The pits, containing a rectangular battle formation of infantry and chariots in the first, and L-shaped composite formation of infantry, cavalry, and charioteers in the second, and a command post of huge underground army in the third, are closely related as an integral whole, though separated from and independent to one another. They reproduce an imposing and grandiose scene of the Qin army one million strong with 1,000 chariots and 10,000 horses in the battlefields.

Before long the excavation of the three pits became known far and wide, stirred up a sensation across the world and enjoyed a prestige of being "an archaeological discovery of top importance of this century," "the Eighth Wonder of the World" and one of China's best scenic spots. In 1987 UNESCO placed Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum and the terra-cotta armoured warriors and horses among the world's cultural legacies. This fully manifests that they are not only the cultural legacies of the Chinese nation, but also the rare treasures of mankind at large. They take up a splendid place in the history of human civilization.

At the Ming Tombs near Beijing we learned that the early emperors had their wives and concubines buried alive in the tomb with them. These mausoleums with the terra-cotta army buried with the emperor heralds a major change in the culture. Human beings no longer were required to give up their lives to face eternity with their emperors. The terra-cotta facimilies served the same purpose.

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Here is Qin Shi Huang

in all his splendor, as he was presented in the book cited above..

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Page last updated June 7, 2001.