The Terracotta Army is one of the top attractions in China, because of its historical significance and uniqueness. It is significant because the hundreds of detailed lifesize models represent the army that triumphed over all other Chinese armies and who were the decisive factor in forming a united China.
In March 1974, a group of peasants digging a well in drought-parched Shaanxi province in northwest China unearthed fragments of a clay figure—the first evidence of what turned out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times. Near the unexcavated tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi—who had proclaimed himself first emperor of China in 221 B.C.—lay an extraordinary underground treasure: an entire army of life-size terra cotta soldiers and horses, interred for more than 2,000 years
Over the past 35 years, archaeologists have located some 600 pits, a complex of underground vaults as yet largely unexcavated, across a 22-square-mile area. Some are hard to get to, but three major pits are easily accessible, enclosed inside the four-acre Museum of the Terracotta Army, constructed around the discovery site and opened in 1979. In one pit, long columns of warriors, reassembled from broken pieces, stand in formation.With their topknots or caps, their tunics or armored vests, their goatees or close-cropped beards, the soldiers exhibit an astonishing individuality.
The army of terracotta statues was made to be buried with First Emperor Qin Shihuang:
- as a show of his glory,
- to remember the army that triumphed over the other Warring States to unite China, and
- because it was believed that objects like statues can be animated in the afterlife, and because Qin Shihuang required an after-death army. Also read the culture of death in China.
Athough the Terracotta Army have not been animated, they serve their first two purposes very well, standing on show, defying time, a majestic reminder of Emperor Qin’s military success, and the wars of long ago.