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Adventuring Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses in Xi'an

Last updated by lavender0108 at 2008/4/14; Destinations:

As an old Chinese saying goes: "If you want to see China of 100 years ago, visit Shanghai; China of 1000 years ago, Beijing; China of 2000 years ago, Xi'an.", Xi'an is an ancient city with a long-standing history and is known for being the capital city for 13 dynasties. It is also the jumping off point of the famous ancient Silk Road and the most important city in northwest China. Xi'an boasts more than 4,000 historical sites, among which the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, praised as "the eighth major wonder of the world", listed by UNESCO in 1987 as one of the world cultural heritages, is the most attractive.

Full of awe and expectation, we headed to the Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, the east gate of the outer enclosure of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum which is one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world.

Surrounded by lush forest, the Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses is so grand that we spent 20 minutes to get there from the parking place. The museum is divided into four sections: Pit No. 1, Pit No. 2, Pit No. 3 and the Exhibition Hall of Qin ling Bronze Carriage. To date three underground pits, totaling 22,000 square meters, have been discovered with 8,000 life-size terra cotta figures of warriors and horses.

Firstly, we came to No. 1 Pit. At the moment when I saw the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses personally, the feeling of astonishment welled up my mind: What a miracle it is! The pit, 230 meters long from east to west, 62m width from north to south, lies 15 to 20 feet below current ground level. It is divided into eleven corridors by ten earthen partition walls, and the floors are paved with bricks. Thick rafters were placed onto the walls (but now one can only see their remains). There are more than 6,000 life-size figures of warriors and horses arranged in a rectangular array, among which one line of warriors in the left, right and west ends respectively, facing outwards. They are probably the flanks and the rear. They are replicas of the imperial guard in those days of pomp and vigor in Qin Dynasty. The figures of warriors and horses are delicately made and each figure of warriors can be differentiate by their facial expressions, stature, height, age, official ranks, equipments, beard, even their hair styles. They are so vivid, as if we could see the real battle in Qin Dynasty 2000 years ago. All the tomb workers and supervisors involved in its design were buried alive by Emperor Qin Shihuang to protect its secrets. Until 1974, it was just discovered by farmers digging a well 1.5km east of the mausoleum.

The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Pit No.2, excavated in 1976, stands about 20 meters north to Pit No.1, about half the size of No.1 Pit, covering about 6,000 square meters. It contained over a thousand warriors and 90 chariots of wood. Each chariot is pulled by four horses which are one and half meters high and two meters long. It consists of four units with rows of kneeling and standing archers in unit one, a chariot war array in unit two, mixed forces with infantry, chariot and trooper standing in rectangular array in unit three, and numerous troopers holding weapons in unit four.

The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Pit No.3 is the smallest among the three, covering an area of 520 square meters with only four horses, one chariot and 68 warriors, supposed to be the command post of the battle formation. All of the Terra Cotta warriors in the three pits armed with real weapons and faced east, showing Emperor Qin Shihuang’s strong determination of wiping out the six states and unifying the whole country.

And then, we reached the Exhibition Hall of Qin ling Bronze Carriage. The two colored-drawing bronze carriages are half size scale-models of real chariots, faithfully copied down to the last detail, complete with horses and people. Astonishingly, No.2 bronze chariot and horses on display, found broken into 1,555 pieces when excavated, is the achievement of two-and-half years’ careful and painstaking restoration by archaeologists and various specialists.

The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, what a miracle it is!