Inside a building showing part of the re-assembled Terracotta Army standing in ranks in the pit.
The Terracotta Army (兵馬俑; pinyin: bīng mǎ yōng, literal meaning: "Soldier and Horse Figures"), inside the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (秦始皇陵; pinyin: qín shǐ huáng líng), was discovered in March 1974 during the sinking of wells for farmland irrigation construction near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, People's Republic of 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 Huang) 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 (西安秦始皇兵馬俑博物館). Vault One was opened to the public in 1979, and the whole museum was completed in 1994.
The figures were painted before being placed into the vault. The original colors were visible when the pieces were first unearthed. However exposure to air caused the pigments to fade so today the unearthed figures appear terracotta in color.
Photo: Terra Cotta figure still partially embedded in the earth surrounded by other pieces.
The figures are in several poses including standing infantry and kneeling archers as well as charioteers with horses. Each figure's head appears to be unique showing a variety of facial features and expressions as well as hair styles.
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 (蔡邕 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.
Twenty eight warriors were exhibited at the UNESCO-sponsored Universal Forum of Cultures, held in Barcelona in 2004. The warriors were the star exhibit at the Forum and were lent by the Chinese government. However, the exhibition sparked considerable controversy when the event's organisers bowed to Chinese pressure and excluded the Tibetan exhibition from the Forum. Despite the Forum's official commitment to human rights and cultural diversity, the Tibetans' criticism of the genocide and heritage destruction perpetrated by the Peking regime in Tibet was effectively stifled. The Dalai Lama cancelled his planned attendance at the Universal Forum of Cultures in protest.
Terra Cotta figures in various stages of re-assembly after being unearthed. Parcels behind the figures contain additional pieces waiting to be added.
- Emperor Qin's Terra-cotta Museum (http://www.bmy.com.cn/)