Unearth The Hidden Mystery of China’s Terracotta Army

Every traveler has their own bucket list of destinations they should see at least once in their lifetime. Some travelers are pulled in by a country's rich culture, natural beauty, and others are attracted by mysterious legends and histories. Just like me who absolutely loved to visit historical and heritage sites, and one of the best historical sites that I got a chance to visit which I believe each traveler shouldn’t miss is the Xian’s Terracotta Army of Warriors and Horses.


China, a  country with rich history crammed with breathtaking and incredible sites built by ancient civilizations. One of these breathtaking historical sites is the Terracotta Army (Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum) - one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century and the most exceptional archeological excavations in the world. Unless you see this attraction in person, it’s truly difficult to visualize the vastness of Xian’s Terracotta Army of Warriors and Horses. And perhaps, you are wondering what’s so special about Terracotta Warriors and who was behind the construction of these life-size army warriors, let's find out together.


The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculpture depicting the armies of the First Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang and regarded as one of the greatest discoveries built in 210 BC.


Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor, a brutal ruler who unified China and founder of the Qin Dynasty. He self-invented the title “emperor” and without doubt, he was the most well-known historical character of China's history.


His greatest achievements were the unification of diverse state walls which turn into a single Great Wall of China and a city-sized mausoleum protected by a large army of Terracotta Warriors.


One of the interesting facts about Qin Shi Huang is that he was obsessed with the idea of immortality so he ordered an official search for an immortality elixir, which might allow him to live forever. This obsession is expressed in the creation of a city-sized mausoleum guarded by the life-sized Terracotta Army. He believed that he would need an army in the afterlife, in the event that his elixir of life failed him. He ordered the construction of approximately 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, and 670 horses out of terracotta to help protect the great Emperor from his rival armies in the afterlife. He was only 13 years old when he became an emperor and started planning his own mausoleum. However, his life already ended while the mausoleum was still under construction.

In 211 BC, a large meteor is said to have fallen in Dongjun in the lower reaches of the Yellow River representing an ominous sign for the Emperor. An unknown person inscribed the words "The First Emperor will die and his land will be divided". No one would confess to the crime so the Emperor ordered everyone in the vicinity to be executed. The stone was then pulverized.


A year later, the emperor became seriously ill and died. The death of Emperor Qin Shi Huang is a big mystery to this date. In folk legend, they believe that the Emperor died because of people's curses due to his dictatorial government. Others believe that he died of an illness and suffered from overwork. According to The History of China by David Curtis Wright, the emperor died from a Chinese alchemical elixir poisoning due to ingesting mercury pills, made by his alchemists and court physicians, believing it to be an elixir of immortality.

On March 1974, the first extensive collection of Terracotta Warriors were discovered in Xian, China by local farmers. Desperate for water amid a drought, a farmer named Yang Zhifa was digging a well in his field with his five brothers to water their crops. When the well reached 15 meters in depth, he found a terracotta head and bronze arrowhead. He immediately realized that these were likely the remnants of Qin-era statues and immediately informed the authorities of his discovery. Beijing authorities dispatched a team of archeologists and decided to excavate the site. Within a few months, more than 500 warriors had been uncovered. The China government offered the farmer a cash reward which was equivalent to his annual salary. He was then evicted from his 167 square meters property with other villagers for archeological and touristic needs but was granted land in a neighboring village.


The world-famous Terracotta Army is part of China’s First Qin Emperor Mausoleum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to the Chinese historian Sima Qian, it took 700, 000 men to construct the emperor’s mausoleum and 40 years to complete the statues.

Each warrior has unique facial features, height, clothing, and hairstyle in accordance with rank. It’s not just soldiers but also terracotta nonmilitary figures such as musicians, acrobats, and concubines have also been found in recent pits as well as some birds like as waterfowl, cranes, and ducks. It was believed that the Emperor wanted exactly the same service and treatment for his afterlife.


The Terracotta Warriors and Horses are rich in history and culture. You’ll get to explore this through our China Getaway Package. A glimpse of the past awaits you in Xian, China.


Blog contributed by: Jovie Jean Saguibo
Photos by: Rakso Travel 

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