Terracotta Army

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Terracotta Army
Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army in Xi’an, aka Terracotta Warriors and Horses, is a super large collection of life-size terra cotta sculptures in battle formations, reproducing the mega imperial guard troops of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 – 210BC), the first emperor of the first unified dynasty of Imperial China.

Being the most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Terracotta Army is no doubt a must-see for every visitor to Xi’an.

Originally the ancient funerary project for Emperor Qin Shi Huang, it is now a live museum, officially named Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, showing the life stories of the emperor and the once powerful Qin Empire (221 – 207BC) in those days of pomp and vigor.

Terracotta Army Fact:

In March 1974, when several farmers were sinking a well about 1.5 kilometers east of the Qing Shihuang Emperor’s Mausoleum, they found many fragments of terracotta figures. The results of archaeological excavation showed that it was an oblong pit with Terracotta Army. Again in 1976, two more pits were discovered 20 and 25 meters north of the former one. They were then named Pit 1, Pit 2 and Pit 3 according to the order of discovery. The three pits cover a total area of more than 22, 000 square meters.

In order to provide the historical artifacts with adequate protection, a museum was set up on the site of Pit 1 in 1975 upon the approval of the State Council. Pit 1 covers an area of more than 16, 000 square meters. The museum was officially open to the public on October 1, 1979. The exhibition hall of Pit 3 was open to the public on September 27, 1989. The exhibition hall of Pit 2 was completed and open to the public in 1994.

Pit 1 takes an oblong shape. It is 230 meters long, 62 meters wide and five meters deep. It is an earth-and –wood structure in the shape of a tunnel. There are five sloping entrances on the eastern and western sides. Inside the pit are ten earth-rammed partition walls, across which huge and strong rafters are placed. The rafters are covered with mats and fine earth. The floor is paved with bricks.

The Terracotta Army in Pit 1 are arrayed in battle formation. In the long corridor to the east end of the pit stand three rows of Terracotta Army facing east in battle robes, 70 in each row, totaling 210 altogether. Armed with bows and arrows, they constitute the vanguard. There is one row of warriors in the south, north and west of the corridor respectively, facing outward. They are probably the flanks and the rear guard. Holding crossbows and arrows and other long distance shooting weapon, they took up the job of defending the whole army. The ten rammed partition walls divided Pit 1 into 11 latitudinal corridors where stand 28 columns of warriors facing east with horse drawn chariots in the center. The warriors, clad in armor and armed with long shaft weapons, are probably the main body of the formation and represent the principal force. There are altogether 27 trail trenches. According to the density of the formation in each trail, it is assumed that more than 6, 000 Terracotta Army could be unearthed from Pit 1, most of which are infantryman.

Pit 2 is located 20 meters to the north of the eastern end of Pit 1. This pit is L-shaped and consists of four different mixed military forces in four arrays. It is estimated that there are over 1, 000 terracotta figures, 500 horse drawn chariots and saddled horses. The pit is measured 6, 000 square meters. The first array, the eastern protruding part of the pit, is composed of 334 archers; to the south of the pit is the second array, including the first through eighth passage ways. It is composed of 64 chariots, each of which carries three warriors. The third array, the middle of the pit, including the ninth through the eleventh passage ways, is composed of 19 chariots and 100 infantrymen. The fourth array to the north of the pit, including the 12th through 14th passage ways, is composed of six chariots, 124 saddled horses and cavalrymen. The four arrays are closed connected to constitute a complete battle formation and can be divided up to act independently, capable of attacking and defending. Three of the four arrays in pit 2 have charioteers. The chariots took up most of the battle formation. This proves that charioteers were still the principal fighting forces in the Qin dynasty.

Pit 3 is located 25 meters to the north of Pit 1. The plane of the pit is of concave shape, totaling about 520 square meters. One chariot, four terracotta horses and 68 clay armored warriors were unearthed out of the pit. To its east there is a sloping entrance, 11 meters long, 3.7 meters wide, opposite which is a stable. On both sides of the stable, there is a winging room. 68 terracotta figures were unearthed from it. The arrangement of the terracotta figures is quite different from that in Pit 1 and Pit 2, in which warriors are placed in battle formation. But those in Pit 3 are arrayed opposite to each other along walls, in two rows. Even the weapons held by the warriors in Pit 3 are different from those in Pit 1 and 2. The latter were armed with long range crossbows and bows and short weapons such as spears, barbed spears, swords and axes. Only one kind called “shu” was discovered in Pit 3. This kind of weapon had on blades and is believed to be used by the guards of honor. A remaining of deer horn and animal bones were unearthed in this pit. This probably is the place where sacrificial offerings and war prayer were practiced. Judging by the layout of Pit3, this is most likely the headquarters directing the mighty underground army.

Fast Facts about the Terracotta Warriors
Location: 42 kilometers (26 miles) east of Xi’an in Lintong District
Area: 16,300 square meters (175,000 sq. ft.)
Duration: 2–3 hours
Open: 8:30am–5:30pm; 8:30am–5pm (off-peak)

How to Get Your Entry Tickets

The entry fee is 150 yuan (March 1 – November 30); otherwise 120 yuan. Children under 1.2m enter free of charge.

The ticket price includes entrance to the Mausoleum of Qin Shihuang, 1½ km (1 mile) from the Terracotta Army museum. If you are interest in it, you can have a look at a low-rated re-creation of the mausoleum of China’s first emperor. The real mausoleum remains under its huge mound, not open to the public.

Three ways to get your tickets:

1.Book the tickets on the official website of the Terracotta Warriors Museum, if you can read Chinese or have some help.

2.Purchase the tickets on the site. You will need an ID card or passport for each person entering. If you buy tickets on site, we suggest you go to the museum early to avoid long queues and tickets being sold-out.

3.Enjoy a private tour in which your tickets are included. Your private guide will buy your tickets in advance and help you avoid lining up to purchase tickets and at the entrance ticket check.

How to Get to the Terracotta Army from Downtown Xi’an

The most convenient way is to take a private tour. Your guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel and accompany you to the Terracotta Army.

If you travel independently, here are the information about transportation and cost for your reference:

From Public buses (line, journey) Taxi
Xi’an Railway Station Tourist Bus Line 5 (306), 1 hour 150 yuan
Xi’an North Railway Station Bus 266 + Tourist Bus Line 5 (306), 2 hours 250 yuan
Xi’an Airport Shuttle bus to Xi’an Railway Station + Tourist Bus Line 5 (306), 2 hours 250 yuan