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Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses

Emperor Qin's Terra-cotta Warriors & Horses Museum
---The Biggest On the site Museum in China

 
 
 
Ladies and Gentlemen:
 
Briefing
 
The well-known Terra-cotta Museum is located on the east side of the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first emperor in Chinese history. The Museum covers a total area of 20 hectares. It is decorated with trees and flowers. It is a delightful scene. Three main buildings of the museum named Pit 1, Pit 2 and Pit 3 were constructed on the original site of the pits at different times.
 
On March 29, 1974, local farmers of XiYang (Western Yang) village, LingTong District, were drilling a series of wells in search of water. They discovered some pottery fragments and ancient bronze weapons. The news aroused much attention from both local Government and National Historical &Cultural Relics Administration. With government approval, an archaeological team from Shaanxi Province arrived at the site on July 17, 1974 and began their explorations and excavations. On October 1st, 1979 Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Terra-cotta Museum was opened to the public. By the time of the opening ceremony, archaeologists had excavated an area of 2,000 square meters in Pit No.1 and some 1,087 terra-cotta warriors and horses were displayed there after restoration. 
 
Following the discovery of Pit No.1, Pit No.2 and Pit No.3 were unearthed in April and May of 1976. Pit No.3 was opened to the public in 1989. Excavation of Pit 2 began in March 1994 and it was opened in October of the same year while still being excavated. In addition to the three pits, two sets of bronze chariots and horses were discovered on the west side of Emperor Qin’s mausoleum in December 1980. These were displayed in the museum after restoration.
 
In the last 20 years, the terra-cotta museum has become the largest on-site museum in China. It is not only a treasure house where tourists can learn about Chinese history and culture, it becomes a main scenic area for Xi’an city. Today the description, “Eighth Wonder of the world” has almost become synonymous with the Terra-cotta Museum. In 1987 the Emperor Qin’s mausoleum was listed by UNESCO as a world-class cultural heritage site.
 
History Background
 
Before we are going to start our museum tour, I’d like to introduce the history of Emperor Qin Shihuang.
 
Many important men have crossed the Chinese historical stage in the last 5,000 years. Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first emperor in Chinese history, was one of the most important. He was born the son of King ZhuangXiang, the King of Qin in 259 BC. Initially named Zhao Zheng, his name was later changed to Yin Zheng.
YingZheng’s mother was a beautiful concubine of Lu Buwei, the merchant whom the king had met while he was hostage in the nearby State of Zhao, prior to ascending the throne.
 
In 247 BC, when YingZheng was only 13 years old, his father died and he became King of Qin. Since he was too young to handle the affairs of State, Lu Bwei served as his regent and also the Prime Minister. Together with YingZheng’s mother, the Queen, they administered the State of Qin. At the age of 22, YingZheng took over the reins of the government himself.
 
The first decision that he made was to put down a rebellion led by LaoAi, a servant who had become intimate with the Queen. The following year the young king removed his regent—Lu Buwei and exiled him to SiChuan, where he later committed suicide. Having all of his own civil affairs in order, the king began the task of conquering the six other states that existed at that time in China, the states of Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao and Wei. In 221 BC, the King, at the age of 39, achieved his final victory and proclaimed the Qin Empire, declaring himself to be Qin ShiHuangDi, the first emperor. 
 
In order to consolidate his rule, Emperor Qin instituted a series of new policies. Probably his greatest contribution to the practice of government in China was the establishment of the centralized State and the abolition of the feudal system. He divided the country into 36 prefectures that were further broken down into counties, townships, Tings and Lis. He appointed twelve ministers who helped him make decisions of State affairs. By appointing the ministers directly, Emperor Qin had all the powers of the State in his hands.
 
To further unify the country, Emperor Qin standardized the system of weights and measures. He made Small Seal Script standard form of handwriting. And he ordered that the width of carriage axles be exactly six feet. These measures helped to centralize politics, the economy, military affairs and the culture. To protect his policies, Emperor Qin ordered the destruction of many ancient records and Confucian writings. He had large numbers of Confucian scholars murdered. To ensure the security of his empire, he had a road network built over which he toured the furthest corners of his domain. 
 
Qin Shihuang undertook a vast construction program within the Empire. He expanded the size of his tomb and had large numbers of palaces built. The Apang Palace at his capital XianYang was built with “terraces that could seat ten thousand”. Two million people or ten percent of the population of the State of Qin were used in the construction. The loss of this amount of farm labor damaged the economic development of the Empire.
Emperor Qin’s mausoleum is situated at the northern foot of Mount Li, some 35 kilometers east of Xi’an city. The massive construction of Emperor Qin’s mausoleum started soon after Qin Shihuang became King of Qin and lasted nearly 40 years.
 
Emperor Qin died in 210 BC while on the fifth tour of his empire. He spent his whole life devoted to his search for the elixir of immortality. He never imagined that he would leave this world at the young age of 50. The tomb was not complete when his body was buried within it. According to a decree of the Second Emperor, those of his father’s ladies who had no children were ordered to follow the emperor to the grave. Many of the tomb builders were also buried alive. In the HanShu(Book Of Han), the emperor’s funeral was described as follows: “ thousands of officials were killed and thousands of craftsmen were buried alive in order to keep the tomb secret”. Construction was incompletely finished during the reign of the Second Emperor, due to the interference of a series of the peasant revolts.
 
Emperor Qin believed that life under the ground after death was a continuation of life on earth. Therefore he constructed a huge mausoleum for himself. At the same time he needed an army to protect his underground kingdom, thus thousands of the life-sized terra-cotta warriors and horses were made. Now let’s start our museum tour. 
 
The Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses
 
Since the archaeological discovery of the terra-cotta warriors and horses in 1974, it has been tested that three underground pits totally cover an area of 22,000 square meters, housing an estimated 8,000 life-size pottery warriors and horses.
 
The three pits were built in similar basic construction. They are five to seven meters beneath the present ground level with the terra-cotta figures placed in corridors. The corridors, divided by earth-rammed partition walls, are paved with pottery bricks on which the figures were placed. The earth walls sustained wood roof that was composed of huge and strong rafters, the roof was covered by layers of fiber mats, fine soil and tilled earth. All these were constructed to totally conceal the army.
The three pits vary in size and shape:
 
Site One
 
Pit 1 is the largest one in rectangular shape, housing the main force of the army. It measures 230 meters long from east to west, 62 meters wide from north to south and 5 meters deep, covering an area of 14,260 square meters. Five sloping roadways into the pits were constructed on eastern and western sides of pits to permit access.
 
The terra-cotta warriors and horses are arrayed in a practical battle formation. At the eastern end of the pit there are three rows of vanguards, 68 in each, totaling 204 soldiers who were originally equipped with genuine bows and crossbows. Immediately behind the vanguards is the main body of the battle formation: 30 chariots, each of which was drawn by four horses, armored and unarmored soldiers held weapons originally, such as spears, halberds etc. Around the outer edge, there is one row of soldiers with crossbows facing south, north and west respectively as the flanks to guard the sides and rear of the army. According to the density of each trial trench that has been excavated, it’s assumed that more than 6,000 pottery warriors and horses will be unearthed from Pit 1, most of which are infantrymen. 
 
Site Two
 
Pit 2 is located some 20 meters north of Pit 1, which is a complex battle formation formed by charioteers, archers, cavalrymen and infantrymen. It is specially used for supporting the main force. Pit 2 is in “L” shape and it was discovered in 1976, covering an area of 6,000 square meters. Different from Pit 1, over 1,300 pottery figures in Pit 2 were placed in four specialized military forces:
 
The protruding northeast area houses 332 archers in all, 160 kneeling archers were arrayed into four columns with 172 standing archers surrounding. All these archers, whatever kneeling or standing soldiers, face eastward.
 
The south area is composed of war chariots. Total 64 chariots were arrayed in 8 columns, also facing east, eight chariots with their chariot horses in each column. Originally made of wood, the chariots were completely deteriorated when unearthed. Each chariot in this group was accompanied with a charioteer, who was flanked by two attendant soldiers carrying long weapons.    
 
The middle area consists of war chariots in the front, immediately followed by infantrymen and the cavalry at the rear.
 
The north area has only cavalry. There are totally 108 cavalrymen. Each of the cavalrymen stands in front of his saddled war-horse, holding the reins in right hand and a bow in left hand.
 
The four arrays seemed to exist independently, but could be assembled immediately to constitute a complete battle formation during the war times. This reflected the unique military strategy of the Qin army – army array within army array.
 
Site Three
 
Pit 3 is located 25 meters to the north of Pit 1 and to the west of Pit 2, was evidently the headquarters. It is the smallest one among the three pits and was discovered in 1976. Only 68 pottery figures and one chariot drawn by four horses were unearthed in the pit. It is of U-shape about 520 square meters. Pit 3 is now known as the command center of the entire army, because the following reasons:  Its position in the far northwest corner of the overall plan ensured that it was well protected by the armies of the two larger pits.
 
At the eastern end of the pit, there is a ramp serviced as the entrance, then followed by an ornate canopied chariot with four armored soldiers. The chariot with canopy was colorful painted, representing higher rank.
 
In the north and south side chambers, 64 fully armored figures were found. Unlike the soldiers in Pit 1 and Pit 2, these figures were arrayed face-to- face with their backs to the wall, suggest that they were the guards. Even the weapons held by these guards are different from those in another two pits. One particular weapon named “Shu”, which had no blades, only unearthed from Pit 3; it was believed to be used by the guards of honor.
 
In north chamber, a piece of broken antler and some remains of animal bones were found at one time. They were used by generals as ritual objects for those religious practices, praying for the protection from the Gods before each battle.
 
The total three pits are located to the east of Emperor’s Mausoleum, determining that the army was facing east, with its back to the tomb, serving as guardians to protect the entrance of the Emperor’s burial. 
 
The Bronze Chariots and Horses
 
In December 1980, archaeologists discovered a large pit holding two sets of painted bronze chariots and horses, 20 meters west of the Emperor Qin’s tomb mound. The chariots and horses were found in thousands of pieces. Fortunately, the pit was not robbed. The pieces were scattered on the ground. After eight year of painstaking restoration, two complete sets of bronze chariots and horses are on display in the museum, too.
Investigation reveals that the chariots were the deluxe sedans to be used by the emperor when he went on inspection tours in his after life. They were modeled after the real chariot, horse and driver, but were half size. Bronze was used for making chariots, horses and charioteers with large amounts of gold and silver used for ornamentation. The chariots and horses were cast in perfect proportion. They were painted to look even more magnificent and noble. Archaeologists named them the “High Chariot” and the “Comfortable Chariot”. Each chariot had a single shaft, two wheels and is drawn by four horses. They are the biggest and most realistic bronze chariots and horses that have been unearthed so far.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen, now follow me to start our museum tour. (Written by Lynn Zhang Lin who gave a guide tour for President Bill Clinton in 1996 as the museum guide of The Terra Cotta Museum.)
 
Any question or suggestion, please e-mail us.
 

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Attractions of Xian


  1. Foping Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas
  2. Xian Ox Culture and Ceramics Museum
  3. North Square of Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  4. Changqing Nature Reserve
  5. Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
  6. Chenlu Ancient Town
  7. Maoxian
  8. Xian
  9. Zhaoling Mausoleum
  10. Yong Le Gong Temple
  11. Qianling Mausoleum
  12. Mausoleum of Yellow Emperor
  13. Han Yangling Mausoleum
  14. Shaanxi Foping National Reserve
  15. Famen Temple
  16. Xian Ancient City Wall
  17. Shaanxi History Museum-II
  18. Bell & Drum Towers
  19. Banpo Museum
  20. Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses
  21. Shaanxi Grand Theater
  22. Peasant Painting Exhibition Hall in Huxian
  23. Huxian Farmer's painting
  24. Tang Dynasty Art Museum
  25. Great Mosque
  26. Hui Nationality
  27. Islamic Religion
  28. Qianling Mausoleum
  29. Hukou Waterfalls
  30. Yan'an Pagoda
  31. Shaanxi Delicacy
  32. City God Temple in Sanyuan
  33. Xingqing Palace
  34. Daming Palace
  35. Blue Dragon Temple
  36. Feiyuan Museum
  37. Mount Hua
  38. Shaanxi History Museum
  39. Anwu Village
  40. Welcome Ceremony at the Ancient City Wall
  41. Luoguantai Shrine
  42. Han Maoling Mausoleum
  43. Han Yangling Tomb
  44. Yao Zhou Kiln Museum
  45. Qujiang Pool
  46. Xian Museum
  47. Xian High Tech Industries Development Zone
  48. The Silk Road
  49. Small Wild Goose Pagoda
  50. Forest of Stone Tablets
  51. Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi
  52. Xianyang
  53. Fuping Ceramic Art Village and Fule International Ceramic Art Museum
  54. Huaqing Hot Springs
  55. Banpo Village Museum
  56. Han Changling Mausoleum
  57. Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  58. Daming Palace National Heritage Park
  59. All Day Mall of the Great Tang Dynasty
  60. International Horticulture Exposition 2011 Xian
  61. Drum Tower
  62. Bell Tower
  63. Xingjiao Temple
  64. Bell Tower
  65. Mt.Hua
  66. Pit No.3 of Terra Cotta Army
  67. Pit No.2 of Terra Cotta Army
  68. Pit No.1 of Terra Cotta Army
  69. Dim Sum Delicacy
  70. Tomb of Princess Yongtai
  71. Bronze Chariots and Horses
  72. Tang Paradise

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