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Finding the Terra Cotta Warriors

In 1974, a chance discovery made the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. While sinking a well 1 mile (1.5 km) from the exterior eastern wall of the mausoleum's inner room, three peasants from the small village of Yangeun-west came upon a pit in which there were life-size terracotta statues of warriors. Excavations were immediately begun. Pit l contained a veritable army of 1,087 warriors (provisional 1985 figure), the infantry and cavalry corps standing in battle formation with archers protecting the flanks. Today it is estimated that there are a potential 6,000 statues of warriors and horses in that one pit alone, which has floored galleries 755 feet (230m) long. It is now entirely enclosed by the site museum inaugurated on 1 October 1979. Two other pits were discovered just north of Pit l and were found to contain similar items - 1,500 warriors, carts and horses in Pit 2; 68 officers and dignitaries, a cart with four horses in Pit 3. These pits were provisionally backfilled and the objects extracted from them displayed in exhibition rooms flanking the north and south ends of the great hall of the site museum. Other finds were made on the western slope of the mound. These included notably two half-life-size molten bronze carriages. According to current estimates, the statue army of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum must have represented the exact number of the imperial guards, i.e. more than 8,000 warriors and horses. Discoveries have revealed the dimensions of the mausoleum, and the site constitutes one of the most fabulous archaeological reserves in the world.Below is a compiled list of the top ten Terracotta Warrior’s facts.

1. The terracotta warriors were thought to protect the first Emperor Qin Shi Huang in his travel to the afterlife.

2. Over 700,000 slave laborers were forced and sacrificed in the construction of the tombs.

3. Another of the interesting Terracotta Warrior’s facts is that the construction of the tombs began as soon as the Emperor ascended to the throne. Workers and childless concubines were entombed with the Emperor to safeguard his secrets.

4. One of the greatest architectural finds in modern times was the Terracotta Warriors when they were unearthed in 1974.

5. Each warrior is unique and stands upright. Many have goatees, beards, top hats or caps.

6. The tombs were accidentally discovered by peasants while they were digging a well. So far over 6000 figures have been discovered.

7. In addition to the warriors, there have also been 130 chariots, 530 horses as well as 130 Calvary horses have been found.

8. Emperor Qin Shi Huang also had eleven terracotta acrobats and strongmen in the tomb. These were meant to entertain the Emperor on the journey to the afterlife.

9. One of the most interesting Terracotta Warriors facts is that Emperor Qin Shi Huang had a deep fear of death therefore he sent 8,000 people out to find him the so-called elixir of life. Knowing that they would be killed when they failed to deliver this elixir, they never returned. Ironically, the Emperor took mercury tablets with increasing doses and died at the age of fifty from mercury poisoning.

10. The Emperor was extremely proud of his cavernous tombs and murdered the builders to keep the surrounding enigma which continues today.

While visiting Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, visitors will learn of the interesting and unique Terracotta Warriors History. Visiting the tomb of Qin Shi Huang will give tourists an interesting view of Chinese culture and history.


  • Part of one the world’s largest and oldest imperial tomb complexes.
  • Three new museum sites of the total mausoleum complex were opened in October of 2011.
  • The Terracotta Warriors Museum and the Qin Mausoleum are now combined as a single touring park.
  • Among the top 10 favorite sites for international tourists to visit.
  • The life-size terracotta army, horses, and chariots were made to look realistic.
    About 1,800 statues have been uncovered, but most of the complex remains unexcavated.
  • The complex is about 2,200 years old.
  • 1987 UNESCO World Heritage List
  • Generally considered one of the top archaeological finds of the 20th century.

Popular Sections:

The main Qin Mausoleum hasn’t been excavated and is thought to be under a earthen hill less than two kilometers from the Museum of the Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses. These are the main sites:

  • Vault 1: discovered in 1974, it has columns of soldiers and chariots in behind (about 210 m x 62 m).
  • Vault 2: discovered in 1976, it is the highlight of the vaults. There are formations of bowmen, cavalry, horsemen, and chariots (about 96 m x 84 m).
  • Vault 3: also discovered in 1976, it is the smallest of the vaults and is thought to be the command center for the army with a war chariot and a detachment of soldiers (21 m x 17 m).
  • Exhibition Hall of the Qinling Bronze Carriage: There are two large bronze carriages with gold and silver parts. Auxiliary museums of Terracotta Acrobats, the Museum of Terracotta Civil Officials, and the Museum of Stone Armor opened in 2011.
  • The tomb and Terracotta Warrior museums have been incorporated as a single park called Lishan Garden.

249 BC It is thought that construction began on the large burial mausoleum for Qin Shi Huang (259 BC – 210 BC) who was the first emperor of the Qin Empire.
210-209 BC Qin Shi Huang died, and thousands of statues were buried with him in pits around his tomb. Construction ended a year after he died when the empire fell into turmoil.

  • 1974 A farmer uncovered a part of the Terracotta Warrior pits.
  • 1979-1994 The three main pits were opened to the public.
  • 1987 The Qin Mausoleum and the accompanying vaults of the Terracotta Warriors were named a UNESCO World Heritage.
  • 1999 Terracotta acrobats and strongmen were discovered.
  • 2000 Terracotta scribes and civil officials were discovered.
  • 2011 Three additional museums were opened to the public.
  • Original Purpose: A complex to protect and serve the first emperor of the Qin Empire.
  • Significance: It is considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. The well preserved artifacts reveal much about the Qin Empire’s technology, military, arts, culture, and military and so help historians to understand those ancient times.


  • Location: about 35 km northeast of central Xi'an (34.39N,109.27E)
    Height of Burial Mound: It is thought that the burial mound covering his tomb was originally 100 meters high (328 feet), but it has eroded to its present 47 meters (154 feet) height.
  • Total area: The whole burial complex is thought to be bigger than Manhattan, a district of New York City!

Interesting Facts

  • Laborers: Many historians think that 700,000 craftsmen and slaves built the complex.
  • Their deaths: It is thought that all the laborers were put to death to keep the mausoleum a secret along with many others!
  • Construction: The whole complex was built in about 40 years and wasn’t completed.
  • Treasures: It is thought that the underground tomb itself might hold much more treasure and artifacts unless it has been robbed. But it hasn’t been excavated. 2,000 years ago, a historian named Sima Qian wrote that the tomb contained a world with mountains made of gold, stars represented by pearls, jewels, and flowing rivers of mercury.

Additional Information

  • Ticket Price: ~120~150 RMB (17.40~23.60 USD)
  • Hours: 08:30-17:30 (March 16 - Nov. 14); 08:30-17:00 (Nov. 15-March 15)


  •  From Xian Xianyang International Airport
    Visitors can take Airport Shuttle Line 2 to Xian Railway Station. The bus departs every hour from 10:15 to 19:15 at 1F of T2 and the ticket costs CNY 25. From Xian Railway Station, take tourism bus no.5 (306), bus no.914, 915 and get off at the final station.Visitors can also hire a taxi to the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses from Xian Xianyang International Airport. Remember to take the legitimate green colored taxies and the fee is about CNY 200. Please make it clear to the taxi driver that you only go to the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses and refuse to go to other scenic sites including souvenir shops.
  •  From downtown Xian
    Take tourism bus no.5 (306) from the east square of Xian Railway Station or 307 from the south gate of Tang Paradise and get off at Bing Ma Yong (Qin Tarracotta Warriors and Horses) station. The whole journey takes about one hour.
  •  From Lintong District
    Take bus 914, 915 or Speical Line 101 and get off at Terracotta Warrior Museum. The whole journey takes about 15 minutes.
  •  Getting Around
    30 shuttle buses are traveling between the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses and the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum for tourists' convenience. One can take them for free by showing the entrance ticket.


  • Ticket Selling Hours: 08:30-17:30 (March 16-Nov.14); 08:30-17:00 (Nov.15-March 15);
  •  Recommended Time for a Visit: Three hours

Terracotta Warriors Finding the Terra Cotta Warriors
warriors Cotta Pot No. 1.   Production process of Qin Terracotta Army
Third Excavation of Pit 1  Lifelike Terra Cotta Figures
Terracotta Army Pit No.2   Military Formation of Terra Cotta Army
Terra Cotta Pit No. 3  Exquisite Weapons of Terracotta Army
Bronze Chariots  Terra-cotta warriors show their true colors.
terracotta warriors Accessory Pits The Colorful Uniform of Qin Terracotta Figures
  Stone Helmet and Armor near Emperor Qin mausoleum The Statue of Kneeling Archer
 Stories of Terracotta Warriors  Qin Shi Huang Tomb


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