The Terracotta Army

In 1974, some farmers digging a well in central China were surprised to find many shards of pottery. This chance discovery led to archaeologists unearthing the Terracotta Army, a wonder of the world that had been completely forgotten for 2000 years.

The first Emperor of China, Qin Shihuangdi, had built himself a mausoleum and, instead of the usual burial goods to accompany him to the next world, he decided that he needed an army, and a very large one at that. There were at least three attempts to assassinate him during his life so felt he needed protection in the afterlife. It took 700,000 conscripts over thirty years to complete.

The site had been looted soon after it was built, but archaeologists still managed to unearth over 6,000 figures made of terracotta clay from the first pit. They were positioned in battle formation and were dressed and ready for battle. Originally they would have been painted with real weapons. There were archers, foot soldiers and chariots. Each is unique and the horses are all in different poses. Their heights range from 5 foot 8 inches to over 6 foot and the commanders are the tallest standing at 6 foot 5 inches.

Two years later the second pit was excavated. This pit contained 1,400 soldiers with horses and 64 chariots in a square formation. Four years on in 1980 a third pit was found, the smallest. It has only one chariot, six soldiers and a few weapons and is thought to have been the commanders’ room. A fourth pit was discovered but was empty and it’s believed that the warriors weren’t finished in time for Qin’s death. Many of the statues were smashed and are still being pieced together.

The Terracotta Army, rediscovered totally by chance, has given insight into Chinese art and war tactics.

Xi’An: Qin’s Army

The ochre coloured earth
Holds the host in its embrace
Shattered bodies, broken faces
Soldiers lie among their horses
Smashed where they were standing
Guarding the Emperor's tomb

                     by Jayhawk