Noilly Prattle: China 2017: 4 - the Terracotta Warriors

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

China 2017: 4 - the Terracotta Warriors

Qin Shi Huang
First Emperor of China
     It is possible to get to the site of the Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, on public transportation if you are familiar with the city. Since we only had a short time in Xi'an, not enough to familiarize ourselves with the city's public transportation networks, we decided it would be simpler to ask the hotel to arrange for a car and guide to take us to the site which is about 49 kilometers east of the city.

       After a couple cups of strong coffee to clear the head, we had some breakfast in the hotel restaurant buffet and met our driver and guide at 10 o'clock in the lobby. It took about an hour to drive to the Terracotta site.

the three pits at the archeological site of the Terracotta Army


our guide and the pit #1 (curved roof)

pit #1

      Even before arriving at the first excavation pit the site has a vast and impressive park and paved plaza bordering the covered pits. The sheer scale and profligacy of space is impressive and obviously meant to be so, as a kind of prelude or overture to what you are about to see. The main site contains three pits which are active ongoing archeological sites. The first pit, covered by a curving roof is the most impressive of the three. I'd estimate it to be as large as a football field if not larger and contains most of the reconstructed terracotta figures at the site.


sculptures being restored in the workshop
broken sculptures
still lying in situ
       The terracotta warriors were discovered by accident in 1974 when local farmers were digging a well and broke into a pit. Upon archeological excavation the pit eventually proved to contain some 6000 life-size terracotta figures. In 1976 two more pits were found filled with terracotta warriors. The figures were originally found toppled, broken and scattered and many have been painstakingly reconstructed in a workshop on the site. Many have been restored and can be seen standing in rows within the excavated pit (as above) or lined up at the workshop (below) waiting to be placed in their original positions. Others still lie exposed and broken in their in situ positions before restoration.

restored sculptures awaiting positioning in the pits

       The second and third pits are newer and mostly only prepared for further excavation with only a few restored figures. 

entrance to pit #2

tableau in pit #2

entrance to pit #3

partially excavated pit #3


      There is an on site museum where the finest pieces are on display: soldiers, horses, silver harnesses, horse drawn chariots, etc. The faces of the warriors are all unique. They were modeled on real people and show the features of the individuals they depict.

four chariot drawing horses
gold and silver harness



World Heritage logo on the rear wall

       Wikipedia has this to say about it:

       The Terracotta Army (Chinese: 兵马俑; literally: "Soldier-and-horse funerary statues") is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BCE and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.

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