Skip the line to discover one of the most significant UNESCO archeological excavations of the 20th century. See thousands of subterranean life-size warriors who have guarded over the soul of China’s first unifier for more than two millennia.
The Terracotta Army, part of a mausoleum, is now a UNESCO World Heritage site 1,000Km southwest of Beijing. More than 8,000 terracotta sculptures depict armies of Qim Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China which were buried with the emperor and intended to protect him in his afterlife.
When archaeologist Zhao Kangmin picked up the phone in April 1974, all he was told was that a group of farmers digging a well nearby had found some relics.
Desperate for water amid a drought, the farmers had been digging about a metre down when they struck hard red earth. Underneath, they had found life-size pottery heads and several bronze arrowheads.
It could be an important find, Zhao’s boss said, so he should go and have a look as soon as possible.
A local farmer-turned-museum curator in China’s central Shaanxi province, Zhao – who died on 16 May at the age of 81 – had an inkling of what he might find. He knew figures had in the past been dug out of the earth in the area near the city of Xian, home to orchards of persimmon and pomegranate trees, and not far from the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang.
A decade earlier, he had personally uncovered three kneeling crossbowmen.
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.
Zhao Kangmin, an archaeologist who pieced together pottery fragments discovered by farmers and reconstructed the life-size terra-cotta warriors that have become one of China’s best-known ancient wonders, died on May 16. He was 81.
The state news media reported the death. His granddaughter, who declined to give her name, confirmed the death on Tuesday, saying the cause was a pulmonary infection.
The thousands of warriors were made more than 2,000 years ago and buried at the vast underground tomb complex of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, along with models of horses, weapons, chariots and other objects.
Qin Shi Huang had united much of the country under the short-lived Qin dynasty, which is generally considered the origin of the name “China.” The warriors’ job was to defend him in the afterlife.
Several thousand of the terra-cotta warriors are now on display in giant pits — the largest the size of an aircraft hangar — at the partly excavated tomb complex, which lies at the site of the Qin dynasty’s ancient capital, Xianyang, about 22 miles east of present-day Xi’an. Many others remain buried around the complex.
The Chinese archaeologist credited with discovering the emblematic ancient Terracotta Warriors, Zhao Kangmin, has died aged 82, state media said.
Zhao was the first archaeologist to identify fragments of terracotta found by local farmers digging a well in 1974 as relics dating back to the Qin dynasty and the first to excavate the site.
The 8,000-man clay army, crafted around 250 BC for the tomb of China’s first emperor Qin Shihuang, is a UNESCO world heritage site, a major tourist draw and a symbol of ancient Chinese artistic and military sophistication.
Zhao’s death on May 16 was reported by the state-run People’s Daily late Friday.
When the farmers first stumbled upon the tomb in Xian, capital of the northern province of Shaanxi, they alerted Zhao — then a curator at a local museum — to their discovery.
“I went to the site with another officer… Because we were so excited, we rode on our bicycles so fast it felt as if we were flying,” the archaeologist wrote in an article published in 2014 on the website of the Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses.
April 18 this year marks the 36th World Heritage Day, or International Day for Monuments and Sites.
Initiated in 1982, this commemorative day aims to promote public awareness of the diversity and the non-renewability of the cultural heritage of humankind, thus arousing people’s enthusiasm to protect and conserve our common heritage.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 mysterious historical sites around the world that are testaments to mankind’s wisdom and creativity.
The Terracotta Army
The Terracotta Army excavated from Emperor Qin’s mausoleum is a marvel of the world with its three pits taking up an area as large as about 20,000 square meters. In 1987, the Terracotta Army joined the UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Apart from the terracotta warriors, nearly 8,000 horses, more than 100 chariots and over 40,000 bronze weapons were unearthed, which are an epitome of the organization and weaponry, as well as the tactics of the Qin army.
Judging from archeological explorations, the Terracotta Army symbolizes the Emperor’s garrison when he was alive to guard his mausoleum and the three pits are organized according to military tactics.
With only 2 weeks to go until our blockbuster exhibition China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors opens, we thought we’d run you through the top 10 most interesting facts about the warriors and the First Emperor’s burial pit!
They were discovered completely by accident
The Terracotta Army was discovered on 29 March 1974 when farmer Yang Zhifa uncovered fragments of pottery when digging a well. This pottery led to the discovery of the first warrior of the famous Terracotta Army. Quite the find!
There were no historical records of them existing
The discovery of the Terracotta Warriors was a complete surprise to everyone because there are no historical records of them, or of an underground army. They had sat untouched underground for more than 2,200 years. This only adds to the mystery, as it is now the largest and most important tomb site in China.
The scale of the discovery is immense
Since the discovery of the Terracotta Army, more than 2,000 warriors and horses have been excavated from three different burial pits with an estimated 6,000 still buried underground.
The exhibit Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China is currently showing to big crowds at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). In mid-April, the collection will move to the Cincinnati Art Museum.
The blockbuster show which includes other ancient artifacts is a reminder that central Shaanxi province and the city of Xi’an where the warriors were unearthed are the cradle of Chinese culture.
Here below are suggestions for a stimulating trek through Xi’an which quickly reveals itself as a city with so many riches that you’ll need several days to do the town right.
With walls that measure an insane forty-feet in height and are just as wide on top to support 98 flanking towers, the embattlements that make up the old City Wall were begun in the 14th-century under the Ming Dynasty.
Wooden slips found in Hunan contain an order from the emperor Qin Shihuang
The executive order demanded a nationwide search in China for the elixir of life
He was also responsible for the terracotta army to entertain him in the afterlife
China’s first emperor – creator of the world-famous terracotta army – was on a quest for eternal life, new archaeological research has revealed.
A set of wooden slips found in the central province of Hunan contain an executive order from emperor Qin Shihuang for a nationwide search for the elixir of life, along with replies from local governments, according to Xinhua news agency on Sunday.
It cited Zhang Chunlong, a researcher at the provincial institute of archaeology, as saying the emperor’s decree reached even frontier regions and remote villages.
Onwards we fly on our China-2017 tour… Next stop: the city of Xi’an – pronounced Si-an – meaning ‘western peace’.
It was a nice day, which is just as well, as there’s plenty to do and see in and near the city. Our itinerary went so: city walls and the old town; ancient pagodas; and (not far from the city) Mount Hua – one of the Sacred Mountains of China. Anyway, more on those later. For now, the Terracotta Army, no less!
You may have heard of this UNESCO World Heritage Site of funerary art; yes, it is quite famous. But the unexpectedly fine detail and massive scale of the mausoleum are only really grasped when you see it in the flesh. A truly grandiose historical site.
Fly for one day from Guangzhou to Xi’an to see the top attractions of this old city on the Silk Road. Traveling with a private guide, admire the UNESCO World Heritage-listed terracotta warriors and Qin Shihuang’s mausoleum; view the ancient Xi’an city wall and Xi’an Bell Tower; and stroll around the Muslim Quarter. This tour includes transport by private vehicle and lunch, and provides a comprehensive look at Xi’an — perfect for people with limited time.
Private day trip to Xi’an from Guangzhou, including flight
View thousands of terracotta warriors in Emperor Qin’s Mausoleum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Walk or bicycle (own expense) along the Xi’an City Wall
Stroll through the Muslim Quarter, to see the Xi’an bell tower and Beiyuanmen Muslim Market
Enjoy a tasty Chinese lunch at a local restaurant
Round-trip hotel transfer by comfortable private vehicle included
China’s world famous Terracotta Army attraction has been given a digital boost thanks to the Chinese web-based encyclopedia Baidu Baike, in partnership with the Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.
Together they’ve created a large-scale, high definition “digital museum” for the country’s UNESCO World Heritage site, reports China News Service.
The digital museum went live on May 18, 2017, to coincide with the 41st International Museum Day.
The move is aimed at providing visitors to the site with an experience that is “closest to the true collections”, said Hou Ningbin, president of the Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.
Created by Baidu Baike, the online museum showcases Pits 1 and 3 of the four main pits that have been excavated in Xi’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi province.
It was once called the ‘city of enduring peace’ (Chang’an) and served as the capital of China during the empire’s cultural golden age, the Tang dynasty (618-907). A perennial stop for history-loving travellers, Xi’an is home to the country’s longest intact city wall and it is a place steeped in Silk Road narrative.
As synonymous with China’s astonishing history as the Great Wall, the silently mesmerising spectacle of the Army of Terracotta Warriors remains Xi’an’s drawcard experience. And in 2017, the site celebrates 30 years since its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
With new high-speed rail and flight connections, a visa-free transit scheme and combo of old world Chinese heritage and up-and-coming hotspots, this year is shaping up to the be a better time than ever to discover Xi’an’s marvels.
I wish our leader Rody R. Duterte godspeed in his bid to become the Philippines’ “Railroad President” when he visits Beijing this month to attend the “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure summit of 28 heads of state.
Apart from modern trains being a dynamic catalyst for rural progress and expanded trade, a train ride is one of the most unforgettable and romantic ways for tourists to travel.
There is indeed romance and a certain magic about train travel, because the experience is less hurried, more leisurely; one can better appreciate the countryside and city views through windows; and there is time for reflection, conversations, dining, reading, meeting strangers and gaining new friends.
The world’s two best regions to enjoy the adventure of rail travel — as I personally experienced years ago — are historic and culturally diverse Europe and China.