Terracotta Army Facts

What is the Terracotta Army? 10 Things You should Know

Located 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Xi'an, the Terracotta Army is one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in the 20th century. What is the Terracotta Army? Simply put, it is the buried army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, which mainly consists of pottery warriors, horses, and chariots. If you want to know more details, here are 10 things that you should know.

1. It is an army for afterlife.

What are the Terracotta Warriors? Actually, they are soldiers to guard Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum and protect him in the afterlife. The life-size warriors are in military arrays, consisting of cavalry, infantry, archers, and charioteers. After they were made, almost all warriors hold a weapon in right hand. However, the weapons disappeared later for some uncertain reasons. In ancient China, the noble, especially the imperial members, believed that they should lead the same life as alive even after they died. Emperor Qin Shi Huang was a great leader in battlefield during his lifetime, so he wanted to own an army to fight against enemies in the afterlife as well.

 See more about Where are the weapons used to be in Terracotta Warriors' hands?

2. Emperor Qin Shi Huang is the owner of the Terracotta Army.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang is the first emperor in Chinese history and recognized widely as the owner of the Terracotta Army. As a theist believing in gods and ghosts, Emperor Qin Shi Huang began the construction of his mausoleum no sooner than he ascended the throne so he could live as he alive in the afterlife. After he conquered the other five states and unified China, his idea of possessing the imperial power permanently became stronger and stronger. Since then, Emperor Qin Shi Huang started to seek ways to keep immortal. As time passed, he realized that it was impossible to be immortal for a human being. However, he believed that he could still enjoy endless power in the afterlife with the Terracotta Army protecting his kingdom in the underworld.

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3. Terracotta Warriors were found when digging a well.

The Terracotta Warriors were not known to the world until they were unearthed by chance by a group of farmers. In 1974, when the farmers in the nearby Xiyang Village were digging a well, they stuck something hard under the ground. As they dug deeper, they found a torso of a pottery figurine. At first, the farmers thought it was a statue of god and became nervous about offending the god. The news spread rapidly, drawing the attention of some archaeological experts, who went to the spot soon. After careful examination, they found that the pottery fragments should be parts of the Terracotta Warriors from Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum.

 See more about Discovery of Terracotta Army in 1974Who found the Terracotta Warriors?

4. The Terracotta Army is a part of Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum.

Though the Terracotta Army consists of 3 large burial pits surrounding the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum, according to historical records, it’s merely a small part of the mausoleum. It’s said that the overall area of the mausoleum is about 5,625 hectares (13,900 acres), 71 times larger than the Forbidden City. The earth covering the mausoleum mound piled up to more than 160 meters (525 feet) high, under which the underground palace of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum lies. Historical records say that there are countless treasures in the underground palace. Due to the restrictions of current technologies, the underground palace has not been excavated yet, but archaeologists believe that once it is excavated, the discovery will be more shocking than the Egyptian Pyramids. Other parts inside the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum include the Three Layers of City Walls to protect the underground palace and the accessory pits housing the pottery civil official figures and acrobatics figures.

5. Terracotta Army is fired with clay.

Making the Terracotta Warriors was a time and efforts consuming work. The craftsmen first made separate parts of the warrior body with clay and then assemble them together. Then they carve the details of the head before installing it to the main body. After that, the warriors are put into a stove to be fired. Sometimes, the heads are installed after being fired. The last step is painting the fired warriors with natural pigments to make them look more amazing.

 See more about How the Terracotta Warriors were Made

6. No two warriors are exactly the same.

If you have a chance to look at the Terracotta Warriors closely, you will astonishingly find that no warriors are alike. Each soldier has distinctive facial expressions. Besides, the hairstyles and clothing of different ranks of soldiers and military officers also differ from each other. Generally, the warriors’ bodies seem similar because they were made using different moulds. However, the heads were drawn by each craftsman modelling on real persons, thus no two warriors are alike. The warriors were so lifelike that some even doubt that they were made using real people.

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7. The warriors were once colored.

Different from the grey and earth yellow appearance you can see now, the Terracotta Warriors were once colored. They were painted with natural pigments refined from minerals. Most soldiers had black hair and pink faces. Their gowns were most in green, red, pink, purple, blue, and white, with different colors in collars and sleeves. Though having been buried underground for more than 2,200 years, they remained the bright colors after being unearthed at the beginning. However, because of the lack in technologies to preserve the colors, they faded out in just a few minutes once exposed in the air. 
See more about True Colors of Terracotta Warriors

8. All the warriors are facing to the east.

There are different sayings on why all the Terracotta Warriors are facing to the east. The mainstream opinion is that it shows Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s ambition to conquer the other states, as the Qin State was located to the western side of the other five states. Also, after he defeated the other states, he was afraid that the souls of the dead people would revenge, so he ordered the army to face towards the east for defending. Another saying is that the Emperor looked for elixir of immortality throughout his life but in vain. The eastern land was said to be the base of immortals, so he wanted to go eastward after death in pursuit of being immortal.

9. There meant to be more Terracotta Warriors.

According to the estimate, there are more than 8,000 Terracotta Warriors, including about 6,000 from Pit 1, around 1,300 from Pit 2, and around 70 from Pit 3. However, these may be just a part of the whole Terracotta Army. With development in archeological technologies, it’s expected more Terracotta Warriors will be found in the future. Besides, there actually exists the Pit 4, which was found to be empty. Archeologists reckoned that the Pit 4 was not completed because of the outbreak of the peasants’ uprisings at the end of the Qin Dynasty. Had it been completed, there would have been more Terracotta Warriors. 
See more about How Many Terracotta Warriors Are There

10. No female soldiers in the Terracotta Army.

Up till now, no female soldiers have been found in the Terracotta Army yet. Why? Well, this is perhaps related to men’s privilege in ancient China. At that time, men and women engaged in different occupations based on physical strength. Men mainly did farm work and women engaged in spinning and weaving. When wars took place, young men would be recruited for the army. Due to lack of strength, seldom could women join the army. As time went on, some rulers even thought that it would be inauspicious if there was woman in the army, which made it even harder to see woman soldiers. According to historical records, in the Qin Dynasty, women could join the emergency backup army but not the regular battle forces. The Terracotta Army represents the regular military forces, therefore it’s normal to see the absence of woman soldiers.

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- Last updated on May. 17, 2021 -
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