In 1974, on a rural piece of farmland outside of Xi'an, a local farmer made a huge discovery: the Terracotta Army, which had been lost to the world for 2,000 years. Construction of the army began in 246BC by Emperor Qin Si Huang, the first emperor of a united China. The emperor, who is buried inside a mountain tomb nearby that is purported to have rivers of flowing mercury, wanted the 8,000 life-sized statues of terracotta soldiers to defend him in the afterlife. Each statue was individually sculpted to match the unique attributes of a real-life soldier and there are even statues of horses and carriages.
What To Expect
Excavations on the site are still in progress so it is by no means a finished product. The soldiers are covered by large permanent canopies while the dirt is removed and the statues are individually restored. Despite the large number of visitors, the ongoing archaeological work gives the feel that one is discovering some hidden treasure when visiting the Terracotta Army. Besides the excavation sites there is also a small museum that provides some historical overview and showcases examples of especially well-preserved statues.
Who Will Love It
History lovers and China fans will be absolutely enthralled by their visit to the Terracotta Army, as the size of the site and number of warriors does not disappoint. Families will also enjoy the site as it's a fun way to introduce children to the history of the ancient world.
Who Might Be Disappointed
Those expecting perfectly restored warriors in a museum-quality exhibition could find themselves disappointed. As previously mentioned, work at the the site is still far from complete. In true China fashion there is also a very large tourist shopping mall that visitors must walk through before reaching the excavation sites. While good for eating or shopping, it definitely detracts from the historical experience.
The site is 80 kilometers outside of Xi’an, and while there are a number of tour operators making the trips, it is also possible to travel independently by taking local bus 306 from the parking lot directly in front of the Xi'an train station. This bus takes one hour and costs ¥9. Otherwise inquire about the availability of a taxi hire.