4 Points to Ponder Prior to Visiting the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, China

The discovery of the Terracotta Warriors in 1974 serves one of the most extensive archeological discoveries in modern history.  Ranking as the number two tourist attraction in China after the Great Wall, you may be considering a trip to Xi’an to see this stunning collection.  It certainly should make it on your list if you are traveling to China.  To make the most out of your experience kindly consider the following 4 points before making your trip.

1 – The Significance

The Terracotta Warriors is a stockpile of terracotta statutes acting as the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Representing a style of funerary artistry, they were interred with the emperor in 210–209 BC and were made to safeguard the emperor after his death.   It took roughly 750,000 workers over three decades to construct.  And there they sat for over 2,000 years until they were recently discovered.

Kneeling Archer Statue, Xi'an China
Kneeling Archer Statue, Xi’an China

2 – The Scale.

The warriors are part of a larger necropolis covering 98 square KM (28 square miles), roughly the size of Manhattan.  Only a small fraction of this subterranean complex has been excavated.  Estimates put the total number of figures at 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses.   The Emperor’s tomb has not been touched yet, and remains buried and in tact.  The statues are currently being reconstructed by hand piece, by piece.

Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an, China
Terracotta Warriors, Xi’an, China

3 – The Age.

We are talking about funeral art built by hand 2,000 years ago.  It’s like walking through the ancient streets of Rome, marveling that your surroundings have been around since the time of Christ.  It’s difficult to believe that clay figures have lasted so long buried underground.  Who would order the construction of such an army and why?
Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an, China
Terracotta Warriors, Xi’an, China

4 – The Discovery.

Farmers doing some digging back in 1974 inadvertently stumbled across the tomb buried 35 meters (115 feet) below ground.  No wonder it took 2,000 years to find! Imagine working in your backyard and discovering something so significant.  The Chinese government then kicked the farmers off the land and took it over.  Luckily China did manage to give them some compensation for their land and discovery.
Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an, China
Terracotta Warriors, Xi’an, China
Hopefully you’ll have a chance to visit Xi’an, China to see the warriors for yourself in person.  Perhaps this brief history lesson will give you more perspective on the scope and significance of this amazing discovery. It certainly opened my eyes.
After returning from China I was outside my favorite Chinese restaurant in the US (and the world) and there was a kneeling archer statue modeled after one from Xi’an.  I was chatting about it with the owner who is Chinese and was born in China.  She had no idea what I was talking about in my animated state.  Of course I had to explain to her where it was from and it’s significance.
When you travel the world you learn about history. It helps you understand the world better.  Whether you see Chinese dragon statues in the Forbidden City (and then see them in the same Chinese restaurant) or Xi’an Terracotta Warrior Statues, it helps to give you depth and perspective.
Calvary Man with Horse, Xi'an, China
Calvary Man with Horse, Xi’an, China

Happy travels,

Matt Weatherbee

Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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