China Wine Tours

The Terracotta Warriors

The Terracotta Army, inside the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, was discovered in March 1974 during the sinking of wells for farmland irrigation construction near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China. Professional excavation of the vaults started soon thereafter.

The army consists of more than 7,000 life-size tomb terra cotta figures of warriors and horses buried with the self-proclaimed first Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huangdi) in 210-209 BC.

With their burial it was believed that the Emperor would still have troops at his command. The Terracotta Army was buried in battle formation in 3 vaults, 1.5 kilometres east of the tomb of the Emperor, which is 33km east of Xi'an. The three vaults, measuring 4-8 metres deep, have been excavated and a museum set up on the ruins, called Xi'an First Qin Emperor's Terracotta Army Museum. Vault One was opened to the public in 1979, and the whole museum was completed in 1994. All figures are displayed as first unearthed.

In 1980 two painted bronze chariots were discovered 20 metres west of the tomb of the Emperor. Consisting of 3000 parts, each of the chariots is driven by an imperial charioteer and drawn by 4 horses. According to the Han Dynasty scholar Cai Yong (?? 132-192), the first chariot was for clearing the road for the Emperor's entourage, and the second was his sleeping chariot. The bridles and saddles of the horses are inlaid with gold and silver designs and the body of the number 2 chariot has its sliding windows hollow cut. Both are half life size and are now displayed in the Museum.

In 1987, UNESCO added the Terracotta Army and the Tomb of the First Qin Emperor to the list of the World Heritage Sites.