Unearthing China’s Terracotta Army: A Timeless Wonder

The Enduring Legacy of Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Army

In 1974, archaeologists were able to find an army that was sleeping underground in the Shaanxi province of China, near the tomb of the first emperor of China. China is one of those amazing countries where strange and surprising discoveries are made all the time. However, the discovery of an 8,000-person Terracotta Army is certainly one of the most astonishing discoveries in Chinese history that will stun everyone. This 8,000-strong Terracotta Army, fully equipped with weapons, was next to the eastern side of the cemetery where they were buried.

The Terracotta Army’s History

The Chinese Terracotta Army collection, which has been around for 2000 years, is one of the oldest and most priceless collections in the world. Qin Shi Huang was the man who started the Qin Dynasty. He was successful in uniting China, and from 221 to 207 BC, he served as the nation’s first emperor. After assuming power, Qin Shi Huang gave the order to construct a tomb for himself, where he would be interred after passing away. This massive undertaking was built over the course of 11 years.

In actuality, the term “Chinese Terracotta Army” refers to the thousands of soldier figures made of terracotta that were uncovered near Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. According to legend, such an army was commissioned to be formed after the emperor’s death in order to safeguard the empire and keep it safe from the enemy. The inside and exterior of the royal palace at that time may be seen in the clay army figures, which are created in actual sizes.

Discovery of the Chinese Terracotta Army

In 1974, a group of Chinese farmers decided to drill a water well in the Xian region to feed their farmlands with water. The locals discovered some fascinating artifacts after doing a little digging, including fragments of clay figures and metal and ancient weaponry. This was not the first time that residents have discovered old artifacts when digging a well, as doing so was usual in this region. In reality, this region has been used for generations to produce antique pottery, clay roof tiles, and construction wall components.

Discovery of the Chinese Terracotta Army
Discovery of the Chinese Terracotta Army

But, a subsequent finding in 1974 inspired researchers to travel to the Xian region since it revealed the existence of a sizable underground tomb. With their inquiry and analysis, the specialists made the largest ancient find of China in the history of our nation. Following this tragedy, a sizable museum was constructed on the spot and all the way around the biggest hole that was found.

What are the facts of China’s Terracotta Army?

Shi Huang’s purpose in building the terracotta army complex was to immortalize his imperial reign. The size of the region revealed was discovered to be 98 square kilometers, the researchers discovered. A UNESCO World Heritage Site designation has been given to this collection. With thousands of well-equipped soldiers and their horses in regular combat formation, the China Terracotta Army Museum has grown into one of the most spectacular ancient monuments.

It was believed that the Xi a Chinese Terracotta Army was made up of 8,000 soldiers, 520 horses, and 103 military carriages until it was accidentally discovered by Chinese farmers. In the Shaanxi Province of China, this complex is situated on the slopes of the popular tourist destination Lisha Mountain. Each hole has a distinct size and is found in Chinese terracotta collections, which are buried between 15 and 20 feet below the earth. There are walls separating one hallway from the next, and the troops are standing on bits of clay.

There are four main pits in this area, which are about 7 meters deep and are located 1.5 kilometers from the main tomb of the emperor.

What are the facts of China's Terracotta Army?
What are the facts of China’s Terracotta Army?

First Hole

The first hole, which is the largest of all the holes at 230 m long and 62 m broad, is where the majority of the Shafalin army’s more than 6000 men are located. Just 2,000 troops are visible to the public, though. There are 11 passageways visible inside of this hole, the majority of which are wider than 3 meters and range in depth from 4.5 to 6.5 meters.

Generally speaking, the first hole is lined with 10 earthen walls that are 2.5 meters apart and create 9 circular passageways. These hallways are covered in a wooden ceiling that is supported by substantial beams and columns and covered with little bricks. This style was also utilized to construct the tombs of lords and courtiers, which resembled palace entry halls when completed.

These underground passageways featured timber ceilings, straw flooring, and layers of clay on top of which were placed. This combination was chosen because it provided the roofing a waterproof character. Lastly, they topped the straw and clay layer with another layer of earth, raising the roof of the passageways 2 to 3 meters above the level ground. This hole was opened to visitors in 1979.

Second Hole

Searches in the second and third holes are still ongoing. In 1976, a second hole was discovered, which was located 20 meters north of the first hole. This hole is one of the most interesting parts of the entire Terracotta Army Museum because it revealed the secret of the order and arrangement of the ancient Chinese armies. The second hole represented an army with 4 units, 94 m long from east to west, 84 m wide from south to north, and 5 m deep. This entire army covered an area of 6000 square m.

The first unit includes sitting and standing archers; the second unit of the war charioteer group; the third unit was a combination of cavalry and infantry, charioteers and soldiers in rectangular rows, and finally the last unit was a large number of armed warriors. All these 4 units in the second hole represented a battle array, precise and orderly, and actually depicted the protecting army. More than 80 war chariots, 1300 warriors and horses, and more than thousands of war weapons were found in this hole.

The third Hole and other Holes

If you move 24 meters northwest from the first hole, you will reach the third hole. The smallest hole is the third hole, where only 68 terracotta figures, 4 horses, and a chariot can be seen, many of which are headless. In fact, the third hole belonged to the commanding officers, high-ranking officers, and a war chariot. Finally, there is an empty fourth hole that was most likely left incomplete by the builders.

Restoration of Terracotta Army Soldiers

When archaeologists found these soldiers, many of them were ruined and almost not even one of them was completely intact. Most of them were completely broken and parts of their bodies were missing, especially their heads, and besides, they had lost their luster. To date, Chinese archaeologists have managed to restore many of these broken parts. The number of these restored soldiers is 2 thousand and they are now placed in the Terracotta Army Museum in the same place where they were placed 2200 years ago.

Restoration of Terracotta Army Soldiers
Restoration of Terracotta Army Soldiers

The Terracotta Army’s warriors

Each soldier of the Terracotta Army stood in a straight line facing east while brandishing a spear, an ax, or a dagger. The easternmost point of the army had three rows of troops. Right behind this line of infantry, the rest of the soldiers can be seen with armor on and weapons in hand, along with 38 horses and chariots. Also, a row of defensive wings can be seen in the northern, southern and western parts of the army.

Chinese government workers and local artisans made the Chinese Terracotta Army in their workshops using local raw materials. All parts of the warriors’ bodies, such as their heads, hands, arms, and trunks, were made separately, which were connected to each other after preparation. Below we will get to know the details of all the stages of preparation, construction, painting and polishing of the sculptures.

Raw Material

Scientists have determined that yellow dirt provided the basic material used to create the vast collection of clay warriors. The yellow land is a unique plateau in the north of China’s enormous country, close to the emperor’s tomb. This area offers simple access to raw materials, and due to its stickiness and flexibility, it has been shown to be a good medium for molding sculptures.

The craftsmen first sieved and ground the soil to remove contaminants and verify its purity and quality. Then they mixed in a certain volume of white sandstone that contains mica, quartz, and feldspar. Sandstone was added because it improved the mechanical stability of the soil and made it simpler for larger bodies to be easily plastic.

How to make Terracotta figures?

Using numerous observations, measurements, and investigations into the figures, experts were able to reconstruct the methods used to create the sculptures.

How to make Terracotta figures?
How to make Terracotta figures?

Making the Terracotta warriors’ heads

The heads were the hardest portion to make, and their construction was highly complicated and specialized, according to study and testing. The primary core was initially firm and in the shape of the head, and the artists then added many layers of clay to the face to give it diverse shapes.


To create the sculptures’ faces, eight molds were mostly utilized. After assembly, resin was used to give each warrior’s face a distinctive look. Last but not least, the artisans add beauty and finesse to the components by carving and pasting the brows, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hairballs, caps, and heads of the warriors.

The enormous clay army is unusual and stunning since each warrior’s face has been meticulously and uniquely crafted by the artisans and craftspeople. Researchers have verified that Qin Shi Huang’s army’s visage served as inspiration for the construction of a sizable terra cotta army.


In ancient times, hairdressing was a social status indicator as well as a component of people’s lifestyles. The Terracotta Army’s warriors likewise adhere to this guideline regarding their hairstyles, which vary according to each individual’s rank and position within the army. Two types of hairstyles were used by the terracotta army: one group braided and gathered the hair on top of the head before covering it with a cloth hat. The other group gathered and braided the hair on the right side of the head. Depending on the status of the warriors and their haircuts, ribbons, bands, or hairpins were also employed.

Making the Terracotta warriors' heads
Making the Terracotta warriors’ heads

Making the body of clay warriors

The body’s many sections, from the bottom to the top, have all been included in hard clay molds made by artists. To make the top and lower elements of the leg and leg, the leg component was first molded in square patterns. Surprisingly, the artists created the legs look like human legs with the same features and quality in order to display the muscles and bones!

Making the hollow body of the sculptures

The artists made the body by twisting strong Russian ribbons. In order to make these strips, they first put a layer of burlap under it and then cover it with clay, then hit it enough and change the size, so that it takes the desired shape and size. After the trunks of the statues were dried in the shade, the arms were attached to them. After that, the artists attached other parts of the hand, such as the elbow, lower leg, and fingers to each other, and then attached them to the arm.

Clothing of Terracotta warriors

Another distinguishing aspect of the clay figures and statues of the army is the clothes of the warriors. So that according to the clothes of each warrior, you can recognize the rank and rank of the person.

Generals’ clothing

Each general wore two robes under his armor that protected his chest, back, and shoulders. Generals’ shoes are square and light and curve slightly upwards in the front. Despite these appearances, only one general was discovered in the first hole and two generals were discovered in the second hole.

Armored Warriors

They wore robes with turned collars and heavy armor that protected their chest, back, and shoulders.


They wore a ball cap, shawl and light armor in front and back. Cavalry shoes were soft and round and designed to prevent foot injury.


Since the charioteers controlled the horse and chariot with their hands and the hand played a vital role for them, they had additional protective parts in the hands and arms. Charioteers also used their helmets to protect the back of their necks.

The Terracotta Army
The Terracotta Army

Interesting facts about the Terracotta Army

  1. Today, terracotta is known as a style of construction and architectural design in which the main material is red clay.
  2. Emperor Qin Shi died after consuming a mixture of mercury, green jade pollen, and a customary alchemical concoction for immortality.
  3. According to scientists and experts, the terracotta warriors’ faces were created and painted using the actual colors and traits of the Chinese ruler Qin Shi’s army.
  4. None of these 8,000 soldiers are alike, and all of them differ even in the smallest details.
  5. The terracotta army is made up of more than just soldiers; there are also animals like horses and equipment like chariots, spears, and swords.
  6. Farmers never planned to share their secret after accidentally discovering a soldier’s terracotta skull for the first time. They were worried that this head’s curse would catch them because it was said to possess terrible, ancient magic.
  7. Other than red pottery, other colors including sky blue, brick brown, white, jade green, and orange were utilized to create the terracotta army.
  8. The bronze sword, identified as Jian and chrome-plated, which the researchers discovered in the clay tomb is one among their discoveries.
  9. Experts were able to recreate the original terracotta army soldier model using three-dimensional and multi-dimensional technology. They came to the conclusion that the soldiers were indeed buried in this tomb with a vibrant cover! Each soldier in this army dons a distinctive outfit that corresponds to his or her rank and duty.
  10. On the spot where the terracotta army was discovered, a museum has since been constructed for these figures. They are now on show to the public in a fully outfitted and secure location.
  11. Terracotta warriors and Chinese troops have been sent to San Francisco for showcase.

How to go to Terracotta Army Ancient Site?

The visiting hours of the Terracotta Army are from 08:30 AM to 05:00 PM. You can drive from the city center (Shaanxi) via Tongchuan road or from Yaozhou. It takes approximately 2 and a half to 3 hours to observe the clay army closely.

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