That Time I Saw The Terracotta Warriors… Twice

As I mentioned before, I went to the Terracotta Warriors with my Beijing group in April, but I got to go again for my Silk Road Anthropology class! We went during class time, which was kind of cool- the only negative was that it was pouring down rain. It took almost twice the normal amount of time to get there, and the walk to the actual warriors themselves was a land mine of puddles- but it was still nice to say “hi” to my warrior buddies.

A little bit of history: the first emperor of China’s name was Qin Shi Huang. During his rein he worked to unite all of China (or most of it) under the Qin Dynasty in the 3rd century BC. Aside from building a massive tomb for himself, he also united parts of the Great Wall and built a giant canal that diverted Southern Chinese river water towards the North. Because he was the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang’s tomb is massive. The actual tomb has yet to be excavated, and is located under a mountain. The records of the tomb (recorded one hundred years later of course) detail all of the riches found in the tomb, as well as a river of mercury. Scientists actually did tests and there is an extremely high level of mercury on the mountain. Cool! The reason why they haven’t excavated the tomb is because they are afraid that they don’t have the adequate technology to prevent color decay and preserve the artifacts properly.

In 1974 a group of farmers digging a well found part of a terracotta soldier. While everyone knew the main tomb was under the mountain, there were no records of anything else. After careful excavation, archeologists found three pits with a grand total of 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, and 700 horses throughout three pits. These life sized terracotta replicas were meant to accompany the emperor into the afterlife, along with many of his officials who sacrificed themselves to go to the after life, and all of the emperor’s concubines who were buried alive in the main tomb under the mountain.

When archeologists found the pit, all of the terracotta artifacts were smashed and all of the weapons were gone. This is because after the emperor’s death, the country revolted and many of the poor workers wanted to extract revenge upon the dead emperor. The terracotta army pits were not fully underground, so the riot could easily enter. They smashed all of the soldiers and horses, stole the weapons and set fire to the pit. Presently, archeologists are attempting to piece the soldiers and horses back together. The pits are current archeological sites, with the finished solders and horses standing in their correct original places (they can tell based off the many pairs of feet that were still welded to the floor), then the smashed pieces behind, and finally an area where archeologists are working to piece them back together.

The amazing thing about the solders is that not one solder is the same. While they were made from molds, artists then added pieces (hair, mustaches, facial expressions), so that the faces of each terracotta warrior are different. It’s really an amazing site, and the main reason why Xi’an has a tourist following. It’s amazing that Xi’an was China’s capital during the time of the Roman Empire but has almost nothing to show for it besides the warriors, the Wild Goose Pagoda and the city wall. Apparently most important buildings were made out of wood as opposed to stone, so they didn’t survive as well as ancient Roman buildings.

Overall, the warriors are definitely worth the hour trip to go see. They shed a lot of insight on China’s culture and there’s honestly nothing like them in the entire world. I took an archeology class my sophomore year, and I remember learning about the Terracotta Warriors and wondering if I would ever see them. Now I’ve seen them twice! I’m going to post a few pictures from the two times I went: the first with my Beijing group and second with my Xi’an group. Enjoy!

Sorry they’re a little out of order

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I currently live in China where I'm studying for my master's degree!
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2 Responses to That Time I Saw The Terracotta Warriors… Twice

  1. Wendy B. Marlowe says:

    What is the last name of your Italian anthropology teacher, Daniela? If it is Knaller or Casteligna, tell her hi from me! Wendy


  2. Pingback: Xi’an | Richelle Gamlam Photography

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