Terra Cotta Warriors
Arguably one of China's most famous
and popular tourist sites, the Terracotta warriors (bingmayong)
are among the top archaeological excavations of the
20th Century. The warriors have made Xian the big tourist
destination that it is today and the wealth in this
city owes much to their discovery.This incredible collection
of 6,000 men and their horses was actually discovered
completely by accident by a group of peasants in 1974
who were digging a well! In a bizarre twist, the man
who supposedly discovered them now sits in a hall at
the site signing postcards of the stone army.
The warriors are over 2000 years old and
were originally constructed to protect the tomb of the
Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The Warriors are now housed in
a huge airplane hangar and despite their fame and the
throngs of tourists visiting the site, they are still
incredibly impressive. These life size warriors stand
on guard as if preparing for battle. Historians believe
that these magnificent men were originally painted.
The paint has now worn and the original bronze age weapons
(including swords, arrows and lances) that many of the
soldiers carried only a few years ago, are now locked
up away from public eyes. Although there are 6000 of
the statues remaining, there were actually many more
when the tomb was first built.
It is the scale of this collection that
is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the site. The
Emperor must have been an incredibly influential and
impressive man to deserve this great protection even
when he was dead! The faces of the warriors are said
to be modeled on the artists who sculpted them and on
the actual Imperial guards at the time.
Further discoveries were made in 1976 when
another 1000 warriors and various other sculptures were
dug up. Archaeologists also believe that there is possibly
a larger and more impressive army still buried beneath
the Emperor's tomb.
How to get The Terracotta Warriors : The
easiest way to get to the warriors is to take an Eastern
tour from Xian. It is worthwhile having a tour guide
talk you through the site as the stories that accompany
the warriors are particularly interesting. Alternately,
you can take the Green Bus from the Bell Tower in Xian
which covers the major sites in the east. There is no
tour guide on this bus however.