Each of China’s famed terra-cotta warriors is unique and features a realistic human face, likely based on some living person of the time.
The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is home to one of history’s greatest armies—though it’s one built entirely of clay. The massive host of terra-cotta warriors charged with guarding the emperor’s tomb for eternity was discovered in 1974, when farmers near the city of Xi’an, China, dug a well and found a clay head—the first of perhaps 7,000 unique figures. (No one knows for certain because excavations of the pits are still ongoing.)
Qin Shihuangdi, who died in 210 B.C., was the first ruler to unite China. After his conquests he also tied the empire with an extensive road network, standard currency and weights and measures, a single written script, and even a more consistent legal code.
Qin’s great accomplishments included his resting place, a 49-square-kilometer complex designed to mirror the plan of his capital, Xianyang, and guarded by one of the most incredible armies ever assembled.
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