Terracotta Army Facts

Who found the Terracotta Warriors?

There are different opinions on the finder of Terracotta Warriors from experts and outsiders. The outsiders tend to believe that it should be the 9 peasants who dug out the warriors while digging a well in 1974. However, according to archaeological experts, it should be Zhao Kangmin, who identified the Qin Dynasty Terracotta Army for the first time.

Who Found the Terracotta Warriors – 9 Local Peasants in Outsiders’ Opinion

The local farmers represented by Yang Zhifa are considered widely as those who found the Terracotta Warriors.

In March of 1974, a team made up by local peasants began to drill a well at Xiyang Village in Lintong District, about 40 km (25 mi) east of Xi’an, to solve the water supply problem. The project went well first, however, with the deepening of the well, the peasants found that the soil layers became harder and harder. A few days later, when the farmer Yang Zhifa was working in the well, his hoe stuck something hard. At first, he thought it was a bronze relic or something similar. Digging a little deeper, he found it look like a pottery god figurine. Later, more pottery figurines were found. 

From then on, the nine peasants participated in digging the well are deemed as those who found the Terracotta Warriors, including Yang Zhifa, Yang Peiyan, Yang Xinman, Yang Quanyi, Yang Wenxue, Yang Yanxin, Yang Yizhou, Yang Wenhai and Wang Puzhi. Among them, Yang Zhifa is best-known because he was interviewed by Bill Clinton in 1998 during Bill’s visit to the Terracotta Army. To some degree, it means he has been recognized by the authority as the first person discovered the Terracotta Warriors.

The discovery of Terracotta Warriors has changed the peasants’ life. Most of them stopped farming and became professional signers in front of the bookstalls in and around the Terracotta Army. Up to now, some of them have passed away and only three or four still persist in doing this job. If you travel to the Terracotta Army, you may still see them.

Read more about: World Leaders & Celebrities Who Have Visited the Terracotta Army

Who Found the Terracotta Warriors – Zhao Kangmin in Archaeological Expert’s Opinion

Zhao Kangmin (1936 – 2018), the former curator of Lintong Museum, is deemed as the real person to first recognize the Terracotta Warriors. 

When the Terracotta Warriors were found by the local peasants, no one realized that they would shock the world and even rank as the 8th world wonder. Some villagers moved the excavated pottery figurines to temples to worship and the debris were used as pillows. When Zhao Kangmin heard about the news, he rushed to the village by bike and took some debris back for repair. He soon made the conclusion that these pottery warriors were in the funeral pits of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. In July of 1974, Zhao Kangmin led a professional team to the spot and tried to excavate the Terracotta Army, which is today’s Pit 1. Afterwards, he successively discovered the Pit 2 and Pit 3

Archaeological experts recognized Zhao Kangmin’s contribution to the identifying, restoring, and excavating of the Terracotta Warriors. They thought that the nine peasants just dug up the Terracotta Warriors by accident. Instead, Zhao Kangmin should be the first person who discovered the Terracotta Warriors. Without him, the villagers may have arbitrarily discarded and destroyed the warriors, which would be a devastating disaster for the Terracotta Warriors.

Local Villagers May Have Found the Terracotta Warriors Earlier Than 1974

Some people believe the discovery of the Terracotta Warriors may be earlier than 1974. In 1932, the peasants in Yuegou Village, Lintong District found a kneeling warrior when digging a grave. However, it was missing soon and later appeared in Shanghai. In 1948, the peasants of the nearby Shangjiao Village also discovered two kneeling warriors, but they mistook them as statues of pottery gods and moved them to the local temple for worshipping. If more attentions were paid or if there was someone like Zhaokangmin at that time, they might be considered as the person who found the Terracotta Warriors.

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- Last updated on Oct. 23, 2020 -
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