When we started looking at our China travel options, I had two requirements: the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors. Both requirements have now been satisfied!
The terracotta army of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China’s first dynasty. He ordered the construction of the army during the third century B.C. to protect his tomb in the afterlife, but three years after his death, his empire was overthrown. The warriors were heavily damaged in the revolt and buried later as the wooden support beams rotted away. The army was rediscovered in 1974 by farmers who were digging a well.
Qin’s terracotta army was created in the same manner as a human army, complete with generals, infantry, horse-drawn chariots and social structures. Each warrior was dressed in bronze and leather, and held different weapons. The bronze swords were still sharp enough to cut paper when they were rediscovered thanks to a chrome-plating method that died with the empire and would not be re-invented for another two millennia.
Qin’s tomb was discovered two kilometers to the west of the army in a man made mound of earth the size of a small town. It’s surrounded by rivers of mercury and the gas is so toxic that it has not yet been exhumed. His army faces east to draw life from the rising sun.
The faces and bodies of each soldier in the army is unique. They were constructed using extra-strong local clay that could be fired at twice the temperature of clays imported from Beijing. The resulting soldiers weigh between 200-300 lbs. each. Archeologists are still piecing together the soldiers and have restored around 2,000 of the 6,000-plus member army.
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