The Terracotta Warriors // A MUST VISIT Attraction in Xi’an

A Beginner’s Guide to Xi’an’s Most Famous Discovery

Imagine it is the year 1974. You and your friends are digging up a well in Lintong County, outside Xi’an (西安) province.

Lex the Lion

All of a sudden, you discover life sized figures made out of clay with armour and weapons.

Too good to be true? Well this incredible story was actually a reality for farmer Yang Zhifa.

Zhao Kangmin, an archeologist, was invited to investigate the area and was one of the first to work on putting back the fragments back together.

What his team was about to find was the world’s largest group of pottery figures. They discovered 8,000+ life sized terracotta warriors who were anywhere between 175cm to 200cm tall, with more than 550 horses and 130 chariots.

This army was the creation of Qin Shi Huang, the Emperor of China who was known to have intentions to conquer death.

Now it serves as a historic monument for thousands of visitors every year who visit the area, which is the size of a football pitch. However, as the dry air of Xi’an is known to corrode clay in mere minutes, the tomb remains unopened.

Terracotta Warriors | A Quick History Lesson

Terracotta Warriors | The Qin Dynasty 秦朝

Terracotta Warriors | The Army

Terracotta Warriors | Should I Visit The Terracotta Army?

Terracotta Warriors | Quick Vocabulary Lesson

Terracotta Warriors | Visiting the Army

Terracotta Warriors | FAQ’s

You can learn Chinese in Xi’an with us here at LTL

Terracotta Warriors | Quick History Lesson

The first Emperor was known to be a great conqueror whose most notable accomplishment was the unification of the states into one nation.

This resulted in the founding of the Qin dynasty (秦朝). He went by the name of Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇) which also means the first emperor.

The construction of the Terracotta Warriors began in 246 BCE when the first emperor ascended the throne, then aged just 13.

Qin Shi Huang

The construction was done in parts. The arms, legs, and body were made separately and then pieced together afterwards.

DID YOU KNOW | The burial is a real depiction of Qin Shi Huang’s real army. Towards the front, the generals are taller and have armour with weapons and as the ranks go lower the height of the warriors also becomes lower.

One can also see horses and chariots in the same position they would have stood in the real army.

At the corners of the pits there are musicians, painters and dancers who can be seen performing as they did back in the day.

Sima Qian 司馬遷, a historian from 145 – 90 BCE, also claimed there was heavy use of precious stones like jade, emerald and ruby draped across the king and other important terracotta warriors.

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FUN FACT | More than 1 million people visit the site every year, and almost 500,000 people reportedly attempted to visit it during the 2019 national holiday.

Terracotta Warriors | The Qin Dynasty 秦朝

Known as one of the first dynasties in China, the Qin dynasty ruled for a short period from 221 – 207 BCE.

This was actually at a time when China was not a nation, instead it was a group of warring states.

The Qin Dynasty, under the rule of Qin Shihuang, unified the warring states and combined them into one nation. He is known as the conqueror who strived to conquer death.

The Qin Dynasty is known for introducing standardized currency, weights, education, and writing systems in order to streamline the whole commercial sector.

The same dynasty also was involved in different projects like building walls to connect the northern border which resulted in construction of the present day Great Wall of China.

Map of the Great Wall

After the death of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, two of his advisors wanted to take over the throne. In a dramatic twist, this resulted in both of their deaths, further weakening the Qin Dynasty.

The leadership then fell into the hands of Xiang Yu 項羽, a Chu general who ultimately founded the Han Dynasty 漢朝.

The Terracotta Army 兵马俑

The Terracotta Warriors aren’t just an iconic part of Xi’an, they are considered to be one of China’s greatest treasures.

When people talk about travelling to China, what do they want to see?

When our students come to study with us in China, these are three of the most popular attractions they like to visit.

DID YOU KNOW | It took more than 700,000 workers to construct the whole site.

The Terracotta Warriors have different faces, clothing and armour based on their rank in the army.

It is said that there were 10 different moulds used to make faces. Those faces were further enhanced by adding different accessories to them.

This made every single warrior unique in some way or another.

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The whole army had real weaponry in the beginning. However, the site was later looted and some of the weapons eroded due to adverse weather conditions.

Despite this, there was still a significant number of weapons that were found and preserved since then.

Weapons include swords, daggers, shields, crossbows, axes. These weapons are known to have been coated with chromium dioxide, which helped them to remain preserved to this very day.

BONUS | Did you know there is a famous Chinese film set in this very location (see the image above). Find out more about it in our guide to some famous movies set in China.

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Famous Movies Set in China – Must See Movies

8 Incredibly Famous Filming Locations In China You Need To Visit Thanks very much to David Wang from OkDealTravel for this excellent guest post. Enjoy! Have you ever noticed that there are so many scenes and elements of Chinese features…

Should I Visit The Terracotta Army?

If you are a fan of history and culture then it is a big fat “yes”.

In fact, even if history isn’t your bag, this is still a must visit for so many reasons!

The Terracotta Army is genuinely unique, you’ll see nothing like it anywhere else in the world and it’s simply a place you have to add to any bucket list.

BONUS | Want to find out more about the Army? Check out four unanswered questions that we discuss.

Terracotta Warriors | Quick Vocabulary Lesson

Whilst you’re here, why not learn a few useful words in Mandarin?

We are a school after all! Here are 10 relevant words for you to add to your notes:

EnglishHanziPinyin
Xi’an西安Xī’ān
China中国Zhōng guó
Qin Dynasty秦朝Qín cháo
Qin Shi Huang秦始皇Qín Shǐ Huáng
The Great Wall of China长城Cháng chéng
Terracotta Army兵马俑 Bīngmǎ yǒng
Travel旅行Lǚ xíng
Tourism旅游 / 观光Lǚ yóu / Guān guāng
Army军队Jūn duì
Souvenir纪念品Jì niàn pǐn

Terracotta Warriors | Visiting the Army

Fancy coming to visit the Terracotta Warriors?

Here’s some details that’ll help make the trip a little easier, including a map to show you exactly where it is.

  • Name in Chinese | 兵马俑
    • “I want to go to the Terracotta Warriors” | 我想去兵马俑
  • Open from | Monday – Sunday, 8:30AM – 5PM
  • Address in Mandarin | 兵马俑临潼区西安市陕西省中国
  • Phone Number | +86 29 8139 9001
  • Price | 120CNY (about 18USD)

Have you ever been to 兵马俑 before? What did you think? Or maybe you are dreaming of coming soon. Do you have any questions? Drop us a comment below and we’ll help you out.

We’d love to hear from you and we hope you enjoyed this beginners guide to the Terracotta Army.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Where are the Terracotta Army?

The 兵马俑 are based in the famous Chinese city of Xi’an.

How old are the Terracotta Army?

The Terracotta Army were built in 246 BC which means they are well over 2,200 years old.

Who built the Terracotta Warriors?

The man behind the army is Qin Shi Huang. He was the leader of the Qin Dynasty.

The burial is a real depiction of Qin Shi Huang’s real army and one can see where the generals are taller and have armour with weapons standing right at the front and as the ranks go lower the height of the warriors becomes lower.

Who found the Terracotta Warriors?

The Terracotta Army was discovered on 29th March 1974 by Yang Zhifa.

At the time the farmer was digging a well and discovered the 1st of many warriors.

Zhao Kangmin, an archeologist, was invited to investigate the area and was one of the first to work on putting back the fragments together.

How far is the Terracotta Army from Xi’an?

The Terracotta Warriors are located 42kms east of Xi’an in Lintong District.

How many people visit the Army each year?

Pre-pandemic times – More than 1 million people visit the site every year, and almost 500,000 people reportedly attempted to visit it during the 2019 national holiday.

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    Alexander Krasnov , Student Advisor

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