The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses

March 2, 2017 Paul Groves

Day 55 of 111. Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum, Xi’an, China

The visit we were all waiting for was the visit to see the terra cotta warriors. In 1974, there was a drought and some of the farmers were digging several meters down to make a well. They found some pieces of terra cotta that came from a statue of a soldier. They reported this to the authorities and archeologists came in to follow up on the find. I’m sure they never expected to find this amazing army of warriors and horses. The area was turned into a museum and is organized into three “pits”. We visited Pit 3, then Pit 2, then Pit 1. Pit 3 is a small area that was apparently the command post for the army with high-ranking officials, but only a relatively small number of statues. We were able to see reconstructed statues in the pit and another area of individual pieces that are still being excavated. Pit 2 was mostly to show the excavation process, with few reconstructed warriors in the pits. Around the pit, however, were four great examples of warriors and a horse in class cases for viewing. There is a kneeling archer, a high-ranking general, a standing archer, and a soldier with his horse (seen above).

The breath-taking view is in Pit 1. The hanger above the pit is the size of two football fields. At the very front is the vanguard (three rows of 70 soldiers each) facing the front. After that are columns of soldiers. The horses are pulling wooden chariots. The wood has long ago decayed away. Each soldier has a distinct face, however, the same types of molds were used for the different types of soldiers. The whole pit smells slightly of clay, but the awe of the spectacle is palpable. Toward the back of the pit is the “hospital” where work continues piecing the statues back together. Much of the work is done elsewhere as well. We did not see anyone working on the soldiers during our visit.

The lower-right picture in the second collage above shows traces of the original paint on the soldiers. They would have all been completely painted when they were made, but the air destroyed the paint quickly after they were discovered. The statue whose face is shown here is in the Shaanxi provincial museum in a vacuum case to preserve the little paint that is left. I found it interesting that the columns of earth between the columns of soldiers was part of the structure that supported a roof above the soldiers. There are even traces of the mats that were used above the wooden beams covering the soldiers. I originally thought the areas between the soldiers were places that had not yet been excavated.