The famous Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin
It was a nice sunny day, but still cold when we arrived at the outskirts of the site. We disembarked from our coach and climbed aboard an open sided vehicle which took us to the Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses. China’s terracotta army is contained in the biggest on site Museum in China. There is a huge statue of Emperor Qin as you approach the complex. The complex is enormous and impresses with its construction and design layout.
The first stop was at the Circle Vision Hall, which is located near the information center. The Circle Vision Hall provides a 20 minute film on the story of Emperor Qin and the terracotta army of 2,200 years ago. The Circle Vision Hall was an exciting visual experience in itself, and a very interesting film to watch.
PIT 1: The Terracotta Army on display
Pit 1 is a huge arch-domed structure, located at the center of the museum. Pit 1 seems an innocuous name for such an amazing archeological discovery and exhibition.
This was the moment – when we stepped up to the safety railing at the top of Pit 1. I was speechless. Such an awesome sight! An amazing Terracotta Army of soldiers lined up row upon row, each with different features and hairstyle, wonderful workmanship and detail. Then the horses, beautiful round bodied horses. It is truly amazing that a scheme of this magnitude could come to fruition, and even more amazing, that so much of the Terracotta Army is here for us to view today.
Discovery of the amazing terracotta army
The terracotta army was discovered in March 1974. Two local farmers were drilling a water well when they came across large broken pottery pieces and reported their findings to the local authorities. This discovery took place 1.5 km east of the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin. It was the beginning of the most amazing archeology discovery and excavation program of this century, which has been ongoing since then.
To date the terracotta army numbers 7,000 warriors unearthed in Pit 1. They all appear to be infantry men. It is believed that the real soldiers may have served as models for the terracotta army, as no two soldiers are alike. They all appear to have individualized facial features.
The soldiers of the Terracotta Army are life size. They vary in height, uniform and hairstyle in accordance with rank. The high ranking officers are taller in height as opposed to the soldiers and cavalrymen. Meticulous attention has been given to detail on items such as belt hooks, shoe ties and costumes. Originally most of the soldiers of the terracotta army carried combat weapons such as spears, swords, bows and arrows. Many of these combat weapons were made of wood; unfortunately they have disintegrated over time.
Construction of the pits for the terracotta army of Emperor Qin
Remaining on the walls of the clay pits which divide each row of terracotta soldiers, are heavily indented ridges where large timber bearings were placed for the roof structure. The roof was then built up with fiber matting, earth fill and tilled earth to ground level.
Earth rammed partition walls were constructed between each corridor of terracotta soldiers. Each corridor was paved with bricks where the soldiers of the terracotta army were placed. Some pits are still being worked in, and many have broken clay body pieces of soldiers and horses still to be restored.
The three main pits unearthed so far are five to seven meters beneath the present ground level. The three pits were constructed in a similar manner and they cover an area of 22,000 square meters.
A railed walkway surrounds the entire pit, so you can see what is happening all over this huge area. At the far end of Pit No. 1 is an area where they are assembling more soldiers and horses of the terracotta army. When completed each piece will be placed back into the pit where it was originally found.
However, having said that, there has been thousands and thousands of hours spent by workmen reassembling clay pieces of soldiers and their horses since the discovery, to provide this wonderful display of the Terracotta Army. At least this army of workmen won’t have to be entombed alive when their work is done, a fate decreed by Emperor Qin for the craftsmen who originally created this magnificent terracotta army during his reign. At that time, of course, this was to ensure the secrecy of the site of Emperor Qin’s mausoleum.
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