The Terra-cotta Army of the First Emperor of China

In 1974, near the city of Xian in the province of Shaanxi, farmers digging for water first found artifacts leading to the discovery of an entire underground army of terra-cotta soldiers belonging to the first emperor of China, Shihuangdi (259-210 B.C., r.246-210 B.C.). Shihuangdi was the founder of the Qin dynasty (221-207 B.C.) and architect of the first unified empire of China. The emperor's terra-cotta army was found in three underground vaults, each lined with timber. Pit 1 contained chariots and ranks of six thousand life-sized terra-cotta soldiers. In Pit 2 were fourteen hundred figures of cavalrymen, horses and infantrymen, and ninety wooden chariots. Seventy more figures were found in Pit 3. Each of the 8000 life-sized terra-cotta warriors uncovered was astonishingly constructed so as to possess individual features. The result is that no two warriors are exactly alike.

The site has been under continuous excavation ever since its discovery in 1974. The emperor's mausoleum, located just over half a mile west of the buried army, has not yet been opened.

The terra-cotta army represents a microcosm of military life during the Qin dynasty. The site is also a powerful manifestation of the nature of Qin rule and the emperor's concerns for the afterlife.

What follows is a slide show of the terra-cotta soldiers and horses.

index of images in the slide show