Why And When The Terracotta ArmyWas Built

Written by Sally Guo Updated May. 26, 2022

The most popular theory about why The Terracotta Army was made is built to protect Emperor Qin Shihuang's rule and military power in his afterlife.

The Terracotta Army figures excavation was regarded as one of the greatest discoveries in the 20th century. In Dec. 1987, UNESCO ranked the Tomb of the First Emperor (including the Terracotta Army Vaults) on the list of World Cultural Heritages.

Contact us via WeChat

for any inquiry

Scan ChinaTravel QR Code


Why Was the Terracotta Army Built

There are three popular ways of saying the purpose to build the Terracotta Army:

Protect Emperor Qin’s rule and military power underworld in the afterlife — Emperor Qin was a believer in feudalistic superstition. He believed in immortality, and people could still enjoy what they had in another world even after they had died. He wanted to have the army protect and serve him in the afterlife, just as in his earthly lifetime.

Terracotta Army was built to display Emperor Qin’s glory — He unified China and built one of the most powerful empires at the time, and he was dedicated to showing it to the whole world and making sure his descendants could remember him as a legend.

Used life-size pottery figurines as substitutes for human sacrifices - In feudal society, emperors were buried with people alive and funerary objects after they died. But human sacrifices were no longer the mainstream in Qin Dynasty; Emperor Qin use pottery warriors and horses for burial reflecting his benevolence of him. He is a patriotic emperor who is unwilling to bury his army.

underground terracotta army
The Underground Terracotta Army

When Was the Terracotta Army Built

After Emperor Qin Shihuang ascended to the throne (at the age of 13), he began to order to build his own Mausoleum (including terracotta warriors and horses) in the years of 246 and 247 BC.

The construction of the Shi Huangdi Tomb lasted 39 years and was completed in 208 BC. The total area of Emperor Qin’s mausoleum is 50 square kilometers, including the underground terracotta warriors and horses pits and his mausoleum.

Who Built the Terracotta Warriors

According to the book “Records of the Grand Historian” which was written by Sima Qian, Emperor Qin Shihuang began to build the cemetery when he ascended the throne at the age of 13, his Prime Minister Li Si presided over the planning and design, and the Senior General Zhang Han take charge of supervised the workers and construction.

700,000 Workers Were Involved to Build the First Emperor’s Mausoleum & Terracotta Warriors

The number of workers who build the terracotta warriors is eight times larger than workers to build Khufu Pyramid in Egypt.

The craftsmen who made the terracotta warriors figures were a group of potters from the bottom of the heap, they previously worked for the imperial court or local pottery workshops.

80 names of potters are found on the terracotta figures, all of those are excellent potters with rich experience.

Making the Life-size Terracotta Warrior
Making the Life-sized Terracotta Warrior at A Local Workshop

The Pits of Craftsmen Had Been Excavated in 1994

On October 16, 1994, the archaeologists announced that they had excavated the pits of craftsmen who built the terracotta warriors.

The Secrets of the Death of Workers

It is said that the emperor Qin Shihuang was buried with countless gold, silver jewelry, and priceless treasures. In order to keep the secrets of the Terracotta Army, all the craftsmen who were involved in the project were buried alive to keep anyone from revealing its location.

How the Terracotta Army Was Made

Most of the terracotta warriors remain vivid and complete, even though they suffered years of exposure. For decades, archaeologists have pondered how ancient artisans made such indestructible warriors in such a relatively short period of time, and they finally found out.

The warriors were made from a kind of clay, which is very adhesive and easy to obtain. It can be found around the site. As technology was limited at the time, there were no advanced tools, and all warriors and horses were made by hand, step by step.

Torso, head, legs, arms, and hands were all created separately. Then artisans would assemble them to create complete warriors.

Contact us to learn how to make Terracotta Warriors from a local artisan in Xi'an.

Contact us via WeChat

for any inquiry

Scan ChinaTravel QR Code


Popular Terracotta Army Trips

Want to get to know the history of China? Go to Xi'an. Want to get to know about Xi'an? Not miss Terracotta Army! Please see our more popular trips to explore this ancient wonder:

We have developed some special activities in Xi'an, including discovering a mysterious place to have a close experience with a Terracotta Warrior. Contact us if you want to add these activities to your itinerary.

More about Terracotta Army

Need Help?

Request a custom itinerary today and get one step closer to your personalized trip

Create Your Trip