Discovered in 1974 by local farmers as they routinely dug a water well in Shaanxi Province, China, the Terracotta Army is a stupendous collection of life size models depicting Chinese warriors (and their horses) during the 3rd century BC. The Terracotta Army is often thought of as a world wonder only discovered in the modern era â€“ by accident. A comparison can be made between Chinaâ€™s Terracotta Army and the Pyramids of Egypt in their significance to the ancient times.
The Terracotta Army was created by orders of the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang, often referred to as the â€œFirst Emperorâ€ for his feat of unifying China for the first time in history in 221 BC. Construction of his mausoleum began when Qin ascended to the throne at the age of 13 in 246 BC and it is thought that it took some 700,000 workers over 36 years to complete.
The Terracotta Army, numbering over 8000 figures, stands in tight formation at the perimeter of Qinâ€™s tomb forever guarding their emperor. Upon their 20th century discovery, a museum was built onsite to accommodate the travelers who venture from around the world to see the marvelous figures. For those able to make the journey, the reward of witnessing the Terracotta Army in person is priceless. The Terracotta Army has been remarkably well preserved, especially so considering it is believed that a great fire destroyed the protective wooden structures that once housed them.
Witnessing the Terracotta Army provides insight into the power that the Great Emperor Qin wielded over his subjects at the time for his ability to demand such a monumental creation as he desired. It is believed that Qin commanded the workers on the tomb to be executed upon the tombâ€™s completion so the secrets of its construction would be kept secret forever. The secrets of the tomb have been preserved to this day as it remains unopened, though its location is known.
Upon first glance, the army figures look to be of the same appearance but after careful inspection it is revealed to the viewer that the figures are all distinctive. Extreme attention to detail was practiced when the figures were constructed, using methods that were highly advanced for the time period. Firing of the large chunks of terracotta required high temperatures of around 1000 degrees Celsius, a much higher temperature than what is necessary to fire regular ceramic creations. The result of the craftsmenâ€™s efforts resulted in an army of over 8000 individuals â€“ distinctive down to their differing armor and caps and even differing hairstyles and facial expressions. At the time they were created, the Terracotta Army figures were brilliantly painted but the colors have long since faded.
Xian is located about 1200 kilometers west of Beijing in north-central China. To travel to the Terracotta Army site, a flight or train ride from Beijing to Xian needs to be arranged. Upon arriving in Xian, expect a bus ride lasting over an hour to get to your hotel destination. Plenty of lodging is located near the Terracotta Army site. Tours can be booked to the museum from the hotel or a bus can be taken from just east of the Xian train station to the museum site for a personal tour. Pictures can be taken of the army figures without flash.
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