10 Things you didn’t Know about The Terracotta Army, China

The History of the Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army mausoleum is in Xi’an Province.  It was discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers that were digging a well near their small village. One of them saw a soldier’s head. Out of curiosity, archaeologists visited the area. They dug deeper and realised that there existed chambers surrounding the emperor’s tomb. The chambers had over 8,000 life-size clay soldiers. The soldiers stood in combat form as if on a battlefield.

The story of the Terracotta Army begins with Yin Zheng. He rose to power at the age of 13 years. Yin Zheng would later become the emperor of the Qin Dynasty and change his name to Qin Shi Huang. He became the first emperor of China. This was after he united the seven warring kingdoms. Qin Shi Huang ruled for 36 years. During his reign, he made a number of historic accomplishments. To begin with, he formulated the universal standard system of weights and measures. Secondly, he invented the Chinese currency. In addition to that, he came up with a single standard writing script for all of China. Lastly, he initiated the building of a defensive barrier for China. Today, it is the Great Wall of China.

However, Qin Shi Huang worried about his mortality. He wanted to make himself immortal. This led him to order the building of an underground tomb complex where he would dwell in his next life. This tomb would have everything required in his afterlife. It had artefacts and tombs where the soldiers would accompany him to the next world.


Below are a few facts about the Terracotta Army:

1.    It took over 2, 000 years to get discovered

The Terracotta Army was discovered 2, 200 years after the death of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. He died in 216 BC and the mausoleum was discovered in 1974.

2.    It took 700, 000 labourers

The emperor hired a workforce of over 700, 000 artisans to get the job done. They began working as soon as Qin Shi Huang got to power at 13 years. The emperor died at 50 years. It, therefore, translates that it took the workers about 36 years. They made 8,000 life-size bodies among other things.

3.    The soldiers were made from terracotta (baked clay)

The soldiers were moulded from wet clay. Historians believe that they were moulded in a mass production formation. Body parts were made separately and then assembled to make a standing soldier. They would then heat them in a kiln to make them longer lasting. Bright colours painted the soldiers’ bodies. However, due to natural factors, the paint had peeled off and the terracotta remained.

4.    Besides the soldiers…..

The labourers did not only mould the soldier’s bodies but the Terracotta Army had more members, these included horses, chariots, musicians, acrobats, birds, domestic workers and government workers. Qin Shi Huang built a literal empire for his afterlife.

5.    Four pits existed

There were four different pits where the soldiers stood in a combat form. The first pit had about 6,000 soldiers. The second pit held four categories of soldiers. The third pit had about 70 soldiers. It was the command post. The fourth chamber was empty and this is an indication that the labourers did not complete the work of building the tomb complex.

6.    Each soldier has distinctive features

No soldier looks like the other in the Terracotta Army. They all have unique characteristics. They possess different facial features, hairstyles as well as styles of clothing. These differences are proof of Chinese craftsmanship.

7.    The soldiers held real weapons

During excavation, archaeologists discovered bronze weapons. These included swords, lances, spears and arrows. The weapons were well preserved. They had a chromium coating on them which shows that Chinese metallurgy had advanced.

8.    Soldiers held different ranks

Archaeologists discovered that the Terracotta Army operated in ranks. They derived this from the style of dressing and traces of colours used to paint the soldiers. Also, it was understood from the position a soldier assumed in the pit. There were cavalrymen, archers, generals, infantrymen, charioteers, officers and guards of honour.

9.    The emperor’s tomb is not excavated

Experts report that Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb contains pearls, precious stones and artefacts. Besides that, it allegedly has rivers of mercury flowing through mountains of bronze. For safety issues, it becomes difficult to open the tomb. Archaeologists are looking for ways to expose it without damaging the treasures inside.

10. 8th wonder of the world

In 1987, the then president of France praised the Terracotta Army Mausoleum as the eighth wonder of the world. In the same year, it became a UNESCO world heritage site. This mausoleum attracts over 15 million tourists and has made Xi’an a popular tourist destination in China. People travel from all over the world to see these historic soldiers. Soldiers are silently awaiting battle orders for centuries to come.