Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Xi'An: Terracotta Warriors

After a whirlwind holiday spent in the US, we are back home in Shanghai. Our families were overly generous with presents as usual so it will take a few days to settle in and sort through all our loot. Plus a certain ball of fur keeps enticing me with midday naps. Seriously, how can I be productive when this is occurring?


I suppose this same procrastination is why I am still recapping my parents' trip to China, a full two months after they departed. Better late than never, right?

After departing Beijing, we arrived in Xi'An for a few days of site seeing. The main attraction in Xi'An is the Terracotta Warrior exhibit. Thanks to stories of the Terracotta Warriors being discovered by farmers, I wrongly assumed Xi'An was a small, sleepy town. I was quickly corrected by our tour guide who informed us it was in fact a small city. A small city of eight million people. When I told him I grew up in a town of 10,000, he assured me that I must have the figure wrong.


The Terracotta Warriors are an army of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. They were buried with the emperor to protect him in his afterlife, around the year 210 BC.


The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. Their armor, or lack of it, also designated their position in the army. Originally, each warrior held a wooden weapon which has long since disintegrated.


Archaeologists estimate there are over 8,000 soldiers, 100 chariots and 500 horses buried in the area surrounding Qin Shi Huang's grave, most of which are still unearthed. 


Other non-military terracotta  figures were also found surrounding the grave such as officials, acrobats, and musicians. Unfortunately for Qin Shi Huang's concubines, he chose to bury the actual women alive in his grave rather than their terracotta likeness.


The kneeling archer is perhaps the most famous of the Terracotta Warriors as he is the only statue found fully intact. The majority of the warriors are found as broken fragments which are then painstakingly pieced together. 




It's hard to believe these incredible statues were found by chance by farmers digging a well. The only thing I ever found when digging in my yard was earthworms. 


  1. I got the same reaction in China when I tried describing our hometown. ;)

    1. It's funny to think of how small our hometown really was!


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