In 1974, farmers in northwest China began digging in a field for a new source of water, and instead found pieces of broken pottery that would lead to the incredible discovery of a massive army consisting of thousands of soldiers, each ready to protect their emperor.
Construction of these terra-cotta warriors began over 2,200 years ago, ordered by China’s first unifying emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, to eternally protect him in his final resting place.
Emperor Qin’s mausoleum complex is located in Xi’an, the capital of China’s Shaanxi Province.
Xi’an has a rich and important history, having served as the capital city of more than a dozen dynasties, as well as being the eastern end of the Silk Road that linked trade between the East and the West.
The total area of Qin Shi Huangdi’s mausoleum complex is close to 14,000 acres, about 22 square miles. Most of it remains underground and undisturbed, including Qin’s tomb.
The figures are lined up in excavated trenches enclosed in what reminded me of as a massive airplane hanger, which is the Museum of the Terracotta Army.
Three pits have been excavated at the site of the original discovery. More than 8,000 life sized figures are believed to be buried, and roughly 2,000 warrior figures, horses and chariots have been recovered and restored.
Very few of these warriors were found intact. Experts continue to restore them by painstakingly putting the broken pieces together.
Each figure has unique characteristics including different facial expressions and amazing life-like details, including treads on shoes, different styles of beards, and topknots. The warrior figures were originally brightly colored, but the paint has rapidly faded once unearthed. Preserving the color has proven to be very difficult.
Some of the best preserved figures are in display cases. A few have remnants of the bright colors.