Facts About the Terracotta Army

There are countless articles about the Terracotta Army. It will take you over one year to read these articles. Our quick facts about the army help you understand the Terracotta Army, one of the greatest man-made miracles in the world, in less than 10 minutes.

Quick Facts

  • Building time: 39 years, between 247 and 208 BC.
  • Excavating time: Initially excavated between March 1974 and May 1976 AD. Another major excavation started and finished in June 2009. There will be other excavations in the future.
  • Numbers of relics: Over 40000 pieces, including terracotta soldiers and horses, weapons, and chariots.
  • Types of soldiers: 10 types, including high, middle, and low-rank officers, lightly, heavily and none armed foot soldiers, Kneeling archers, chariot drivers and soldiers, and cavalry.
  • Height of soldiers: Between 1.8 meters and 1.97 meters (between 5.9 feet and 6.4 feet). The height of a terracotta soldier is around 1.7 meters (5.5 feet). The heights of the pedestal and hair bun make it looks taller.
  • Types of Weapons: 10 types, including crossbow triggers, arrowheads, dagger-axes, swords, spears, halberds, hammer spears, billhooks, battleaxes, and bayonets.
  • Area of the Terracotta Army vaults: Vault 1: 14620 square meters (3.5 acres). Vault 2: 6000 square meters (1.5 acres). Vault 3: 520 square meters (0.12 acres).
  • Distance from Xian city: 43.2 kilometers (26.2 miles), 1.5 hours by car or bus.
  • Opening hours: 8:30 - 17:00, March 16 to November 15; 8:30 – 16:30, November 16 to next year’s March 15.
  • Price: 150 RMB

Bright-Colored Warriors and Red Horses

Does the Terracotta Army always look grey in your mind? But you know what: when originally made, the terracotta warriors and horses were actually painted with exquisite colors.

Having been buried underground for over 2,200 years and experienced burning, collapsing, and flooding, once excavated their colors have tended to fade and turn to grey. A study showed that the lacquer layer under the pigments of the terracotta army will oxidize and curl in just 15 seconds and peel off within 4 minutes when exposed to air.

Technology today, however, has helped us reveal the true colors of the terracotta army.


  • Appearance: black hair, eyebrows, eyeballs, beards, and pink skin.
  • Clothes: red hairband, brown armor with colorful geometric patterns, green pants, ocher shin-guards, and black shoes …

In fact, depending on rank in the army, there are different types of warriors’ dress in a dozen different colors, including red, pink, purple, blue, green, black, white, ocher, etc. We can summarize the color effect as "bright colors, strong contrasts, light, and dark" – the upper body is bright while the lower body is dark.

An interesting fact is that all the terracotta warriors have beards because the beard is a symbol of adults; signifying that minors could not perform military service in the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC).

A terracotta horse usually has a purplish red body with a pink tongue, white teeth, white hooves, black hair, and tail.

Terracotta Warrior with Facial Mask

A terracotta warrior is doing a facial

8 Chinese-Character Shapes of Terracotta Warrior Faces

The terracotta statues are life-sized. The face of each soldier differs and is designed to be unique; archaeologists, however, have summarized the face shapes of these 8,000 soldiers by reference to eight Chinese characters: 国, 用, 田, 目, 甲, 申, 由, and 风.

  1. 1. “国”-shaped face: Rectangular face, wide forehead and cheeks, high cheekbones, and wide jaw
  2. 2. “用”-shaped face: Similar to the "国" shape, but with flat cheeks and chin.
  3. 3. “田”-shaped face: Round face with approximate square shape
  4. 4. “目”-shaped face: Narrow and long face with a small facial feature.s
  5. 5. “甲”-shaped face: The upper part of the face is wide while the lower part is narrow, this “甲” shape is generally called ‘oval face’.
  6. 6. “申”-shaped face: With both narrow ends, the “申”-shaped face has a rounded forehead, relatively wide cheekbones, with a long and sharp chin.
  7. 7. “由”-shaped face: Long face, narrow forehead, wide cheek, and fat chin.
  8. 8. “风”-shaped face: With both wide ends, the “风”-shaped face is narrow in the middle and wide at the bottom, just like a pear.

Among the terracotta warriors, “目”, “甲”, “国” are the most common face shapes while “申” and “由” are the least common. And the face shape varies with different areas.

The Most Complete Terracotta Statues

Varying in appearance and role, there are thousands of terracotta statues excavated in the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. Owing to their age of over 2,200 years, they have been more or less damaged, so most statues we see now are reconstructed by experts from debris. But the kneeling archers are an exception, still well-preserved without any artificial restoration. Why? Two reasons:

  1. 1. With the underground structure, the taller standing warriors bear the brunt of collapsing while those in lower keeling positions are spared.
  2. 2. With the position of kneeling, the archers’ right knees, right feet, and left feet to form an isosceles triangle to sustain their upper body. Compared with the standing soldiers, they are more stable and not so likely to sustain a physical injury.

Through these well-preserved terracotta kneeling archers we can catch a glimpse of the Qin archery warriors as they were more than two thousand years ago.

Emperor Qin's Personal Mausoleum Has Not Been Excavated

Being one of the largest, richest, and most unique imperial mausoleums in the world, the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is actually a luxurious underground palace. According to historical records, it contains a vast amount of treasure, such as lacquerware, silk, ceramics, paintings, bronze vessels, precious jewelry, etc. Owing to both natural and human factors, however, the emperor’s tomb itself hasn’t been excavated yet. There are three major reasons for this:

Firstly, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage stipulated a policy long ago not to take the initiative to excavate any emperors’ tombs.

Secondly, the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin is a huge labyrinth of pits. More than 180 funerary pits were discovered. The terracotta army was in just one section of these pits, and there are many other unknown sections. This is an arduous long-term mission that demands careful step-by-step planning.

Thirdly, the protection and excavation of the Mausoleum is a delicate project. With the absence of local and peripheral knowledge, coupled with the immaturity of preservation techniques on unearthed cultural relics and research ability, we can’t be sure of getting into the tomb without destroying some of its contents.

For example, in the case of the terracotta army, archaeologists were initially unable to prevent the coat of paint on the surface of the terracotta figures from being oxidized when exposed to air, which resulted in the rapid shedding of their colorful decorations.

Terracotta Army Tour with Beijing and Shanghai

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