Terracotta Soldiers

Terracotta Army in Xian



Pictures by: Father Tomas Del Valle-Reyes & Mark A. Torres


The Terracotta Army in simplified Chinese means "soldier and horse funerary statues" are the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang the First Emperor of China. The terracotta figures, dating from 210 BCE, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers drilling water well 1.5 miles east of Lishan, a mountain, near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China.

This discovery prompted archaeologists to proceed to Shaanxi Province, China to investigate. The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor.

Terracotta Soldiers

The figures vary in height (183–195 cm - 6ft–6ft 5in), according to their role, the tallest being the generals. The figures include strong warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.

Terracotta Soldiers

According to the historian Sima Qian (145-90 BCE) construction of this mausoleum began in 246 BCE and involved 700,000 workers. Qin Shi Huang was thirteen when construction began. Sima Qian, in his most famous work was completed a century after the mausoleum completion, wrote that the First Emperor was buried with palaces, scenic towers, officials, valuable utensils and “wonderful objects,” with 100 rivers fashioned in mercury and above this heavenly bodies below which he wrote were “the features of the earth.” Some translations of this passage refer to “models” or “imitations” but in fact he does not use those words.

Recent scientific work at the site has shown high levels of mercury in the soil on and around Mount Lishan, appearing to add credence to the writing of ancient historian Sima Qian. The tomb of Shi Huang Di is near an earthen pyramid 76 meters tall and nearly 350 square meters. The tomb remains unopened, in the hope that it will remain intact. Only a portion of the site is presently excavated.