Terracotta Army: Wikis


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Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Xian museum.jpg
State Party Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iii, iv, vi
Reference 441
Region** Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 1987  (11th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Terracotta Army (simplified Chinese: 兵马俑traditional Chinese: 兵馬俑pinyin: bīngmǎ yǒng; literally "soldier and horse funerary statues") is the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang the First Emperor of China. The terracotta figures, dating from 210 BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. (Chinese: 秦始皇陵pinyin: Qín Shǐhuáng di). The figures vary in height (183–195 cm - 6 ft–6 ft 5in), according to their role, the tallest being the generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.[1] Many archeologists believe that there are many pits still waiting to be discovered.



View of the largest excavation pit of the Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army-China2.jpg

The Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 in the eastern suburbs of Xi'an, Shaanxi Province by local farmers drilling a water well 1.5 miles east of Lishan (a mountain).[2] This discovery prompted archaeologists to go to Shaanxi Province, China to investigate. The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art buried with the First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang, "shi huang" means the first emperor) in 210-209 BC. (He declared himself the first emperor of China in 221 BCE.) Their purpose was to help rule another empire with Shi Huang Di in the afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as "Qin's Armies."

The material to make the terracotta warriors originated on Mount Lishan. In addition to the warriors, an entire man-made necropolis for the emperor has been excavated.

According to historian Sima Qian (145-90 BC), construction of this mausoleum began in 246 BC and involved 700,000 workers. Qin Shi Huang was 13 when construction began. He specifically stated that no two soldiers were to be made alike, which is most likely why he had construction started at that young age. Sima Qian, in his most famous work, Shiji, completed a century after the mausoleum completion, wrote that the First Emperor was buried with palaces, scenic towers, officials, valuable utensils and "wonderful objects," with 100 rivers fashioned in mercury and above this heavenly bodies below which he wrote were "the features of the earth." Some translations of this passage refer to "models" or "imitations," but he does not use those words.[3]

Recent scientific work at the site has shown high levels of mercury in the soil on and around Mount Lishan, appearing to add credence to Sima Qian's writings. The tomb of Shi Huang Di is under an earthen pyramid 76 meters tall and nearly 350 square meters. The tomb remains unopened, in the hope that it will remain intact. Archeologists are afraid that if they do excavate the tomb, they might damage some of the valuables buried with emperor Qin Shi Huang. Only a portion of the site is presently excavated, and photos and video recordings are prohibited in some areas of the viewing. Only few foreigners such as Queen Elizabeth II have walked through the pits, side by side to the army. [4]

a terra cotta soldier and his terra cotta horse

Qin Shi Huang’s necropolis complex was constructed to serve as an imperial compound or palace. It comprises several offices, halls and other structures and is surrounded by a wall with gateway entrances. It was also said[citation needed] as a legend that the terracotta warriors were real soldiers, buried with Emperor Qin so that they could defend him from any dangers in the next life.

Construction of Terracotta Army

The terracotta army figures were manufactured both in workshops by government laborers and also by local craftsmen. The head, arms, legs and torsos were created separately and then assembled. Studies show that eight face moulds were most likely used, and then clay was added to provide individual facial features.[5] Once assembled, intricate features such as facial expressions were added. It is believed that their legs were made in much the same way that terracotta drainage pipes were manufactured at the time. This would make it an assembly line production, with specific parts manufactured and assembled after being fired, as opposed to crafting one solid piece of terracotta and subsequently firing it. In those days, each workshop was required to inscribe its name on items produced to ensure quality control. This has aided modern historians in verifying that workshops that once made tiles and other mundane items were commandeered to work on the terracotta army. Upon completion, the terracotta figures were placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty.

The terracotta figures are life-like and life-sized. They vary in height, uniform and hairstyle in accordance with rank. The colored lacquer finish, individual facial features, and actual weapons and armor from battle used in manufacturing these figures created a realistic appearance. The original weapons were stolen by robbers shortly after the creation of the army and the coloring has faded greatly. However, their existence serves as a testament to the amount of labor and skill involved in their construction. It also reveals the power the First Emperor possessed, enabling him to command such a monumental undertaking.

The pits

The four pits associated with the dig are about 1.5 km east of the burial ground and are about 7 meters deep. The outside walls of the tomb complex are as if placed there to protect the tomb from the east, where all the conquered states lay. They are solidly built with rammed earth walls and ground layers as hard as concrete. Pit one, 230 meters long, contains the main army, estimated at 8,000 figures. Pit One has 11 corridors, most of which are over 3 meters wide, and paved with small bricks with a wooden ceiling supported by large beams and posts. This design was also used for the tombs of noblemen and would have resembled palace hallways. The wooden ceilings were covered with reed mats and layers of clay for waterproofing, and then mounded with more soil making them, when built, about 2 to 3 meters higher than ground level.[6] Pit two has cavalry and infantry units as well as war chariots, and is thought to represent a military guard. Pit three is the command post, with high ranking officers and a war chariot. Pit four is empty, seemingly left unfinished by its builders.

British Museum exhibition

A set piece of 120 objects from the mausoleum and 20 terracotta warriors were displayed at the British Museum in London as its special exhibition "The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army" from September 13, 2007 to April 2008.[7] This Terracotta Army exhibition made 2008 the British Museum's most successful year ever, and made the British Museum the United Kingdom's top cultural attraction between 2007-08.[8][9] The exhibition also brought in the most visitors to the British Museum since the King Tutankhamun exhibition in 1972.[8] It was reported that the initial batch of pre-bookable tickets to the Terracotta Army exhibition sold out so fast that the museum extended the exhibition until midnight on Thursdays to Sundays.[10] According to The Times, many people had to be turned away from the exhibition, despite viewings until midnight,[11] and during the day of events to mark the Chinese new year, the crush was so intense that the gates to the museum had to be shut.[11] The Terracotta Army has been described as the only other set of historic artifacts (along with the remnants of ruins of the Titanic) which can draw a crowd simply on the back of the name alone.[10]

In popular culture

  • The Terracotta Army was featured in a 1992 episode of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
  • In 2004 the Terracotta Army was visited by the contestants competing on Season 6 of The Amazing Race.
  • In 2005 film The Myth, the mausoleum was raided and revealed to be a huge anti-gravity field complete with floating armies and mock palace.
  • The Terracotta Army was replicated in the 2008 movie The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
  • In Lionhead Studio's Fable II, Terry Cotter's Army, a spoof of the Terracotta Army, can be found behind a "Demon Door."
  • The game The Sims 3 has an expansion pack The Sims 3: World Adventures that has soldiers, horses and chariots from the Terracotta Army in the China vacation destination.


See also


  1. ^ Jane Portal and Qingbo Duan, The First Emperor: China's Terra Cotta Army, British Museum Press, 2007, p. 167
  2. ^ The precise coordinates are 34°23′5.71″N 109°16′23.19″E / 34.3849194°N 109.2731083°E / 34.3849194; 109.2731083Coordinates: 34°23′5.71″N 109°16′23.19″E / 34.3849194°N 109.2731083°E / 34.3849194; 109.2731083)
  3. ^ Jane Portal and Qingbo Duan, The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army, British Museum Press, 2007, p. 17
  4. ^ The Mausoleum of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty and Terracotta Warriors and Horses
  5. ^ Jane Portal and Qingdao Dan, The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Arm, British Museum Press, 2007, p. 170
  6. ^ Jane Portal and Qingbo Duan, The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Arm, British Museum Press, 2007, pp260-167
  7. ^ The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army. The British Museum
  8. ^ a b "Terracotta army makes British Museum favorite attraction". The Guardian. 2008-07-02. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2008/jul/02/design.heritage. 
  9. ^ "British Museum sees its most successful year ever". Best Western. 2008-07-03. http://www.bestwestern.co.uk/Editorial-News/Article/British-Museum-sees-its-most-successful-year-ever-401.aspx. 
  10. ^ a b "The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army (British Museum)". Great Exhibitions. 2008-02-09. http://www.greatexhibitions.co.uk/blog/the-first-emperor-chinas-terracotta-army-british-museum/. 
  11. ^ a b "Is the British Museum the greatest museum on earth?". The Times. 2008-07-09. http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article4296037.ece. 


  • Debainne-Francfort, Corrine (1999). The Search for Ancient China. Discoveries. New York: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 9780810928503. 
  • Dillon, Michael (1998). China: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary. Durham East Asia series. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. ISBN 9780700704392. 
  • Kinoshita, Hiromi (2007). Jane Portal. ed. The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army. London: British Museum. ISBN 9780714124476. 
  • Ledderose, Lothar (2000). "A Magic Army for the Emperor". Ten Thousand Things: Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art. The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691009575. 
  • Perkins, Dorothy (1999). Encyclopedia of China: The Essential Reference to China, Its History and Culture. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 9780816043743. 

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


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Proper noun

Terracotta Army

  1. The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huangdi the First Emperor of China.


Simple English

The Terracotta Army are the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang, an ancient Chinese emperor. These ancient Chinese sculptures are found in a vast mausouleum, which is still largely excavated, in the city of Xi'an in Shaanxi province of China and dates back to the 3rd century BC. These were sculpted in the image of Qin Shi Huang's army.

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