Terracotta Army Facts

Why was there little record about Terracotta Warriors in history?

As a part of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, the Terracotta Warriors cover an area of 25,380 square meters (6.3 acres), in which there are more than 8,000 terracotta figurines. It took 720,000 workers nearly 40 years to build it. However, it is puzzling that such a large scale of funerary object has not been recorded in history. Why? Below are some possible reasons.

Reason 1. It was a state secret.

The construction of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum was extremely confidential, which was strictly prohibited to be recorded and publicized in order to prevent tomb robbers from stealing. If any craftsmen disclose any information about the construction of the royal mausoleum, the craftsman himself and his consanguineous relatives would all be killed or punished! So there was few historical records in that time. It was not until the “Historical Records” written by Sima Qian in the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD) that there was a record of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum. Later books about Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum were basically derived from the “Historical Records”. As there is no mention of the Terracotta Warriors in “Historical Records”, so it can’t be seen in other historical books.

Reason 2. All the workers participating in the construction were killed.

The tyranny adopted by the first Qin Emperor in order to build the mausoleum eventually led to peasant uprising and craftsman strike. Qin Shi Huang was furious and exterminated every one of the craftsmen. It was also recorded that all the workers who participated in the construction of the mausoleum of the first emperor of Qin were killed to keep it safe from robbery because many treasures were buried in the tomb.

Reason 3. The craftsmen all died in the war.

At the end of the Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC), there was a large-scale peasant uprising. Historical record says that the first emperor of Qin sent more than 700,000 prisoners who participated in the construction of mausoleum to suppress. After many wars, the relevant prisoners were almost annihilated, which brought difficulties to the spread of Terracotta Warriors.

Reason 4. Relevant officials and royal families died in the imperial fights for power.

Li Si, a Prime Minister in Qin Dynasty who designed the Qin Shi Huang mausoleum according to the ‘Funeral’ in his teacher’s book was the person that knew the most about the mausoleum. But Li Si and other important officials and members of the royal family finally died in the dispute for royal power. Later generations have lost an important source of information about Terracotta Warriors.

Reason 5. The Qin people wanted to forget Terracotta Warriors.

Building the mausoleum had been a nightmare that the common people of the whole country would like to forget. On one side, they thought that it was very unlucky to record the Terracotta Warriors. On the other side, the demise of the Qin Dynasty made the people and new rulers worry that these terracotta warriors would “revenge”, so they simply destroyed all the information related to the Terracotta Warriors and let them buried underground forever.

Reason 6. Relevant records of the Terracotta Warriors were destroyed by Xiang Yu.

There may be some records about the Terracotta Warriors kept in the Qin Imperial Palace. According to “Historical Records”, Xiang Yu – who overthrew the Qin Dynasty attacked the capital of Qin Dynasty and burned the Qin Imperial Palace. Many historical materials had been destroyed, and the relevant records of the Terracotta Warriors may among them.

Further Reading:

History of Terracotta Army

How did the Terracotta Army get burnt and destroyed?

Has Qin Shi Huang Tomb ever been robbed in the past?

- Last updated on Dec. 25, 2020 -
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