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Monday, June 20, 2011

Terracotta Warriors: An Army for the Afterlife

Discovered: March 1974
Built: 210 BC
Location: Eastern suburbs of Xi'an, Shaanxi Province

A group of local farmers were digging for a well in Shaanxi province on March of 1974 and found fragments of a clay figure, the first evidence in what would soon turn out to be the greatest archaeological discovery of the modern time.

Near the unexcavated tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi who proclaimed himself as the first emperor of China in 221 BC, lay an extraordinary treasure – an entire army of life size terracotta soldiers and horses hidden underground for more than 2,000 years.

Qin Shi Huang who later became the first Emperor of China ascended his throne at age 13 in 246 BC. He had begun to work for his mausoleum and took 11 years to finish it. It is said that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his after life. 

This amazing but tyrant man conquered and united China and became its first Emperor. He built the Great Wall and other great works of art. Obsessed with a quest for the secret of immortality, he ordered 70,000 workers to build his tomb that is said to be filled with legendary treasures. Also, his 3000 wives and concubines followed him to the grave.

The life-size figures of the terracotta army vary in height, uniform and hairstyles according to their roles. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strong men and musicians. Current estimates that there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses found on 3 of the pits and many of them are still buried.

An army of craftsman laboured for 37 years in order to produce what is now the army of terracotta warriors. The purpose of this army was to provide service in the afterlife and to defend the king when he awake. They were buried with the emperor at the time of his death. Each terracotta army is unique and no two faces were alike, suggesting that each terracotta warrior is an actual replica modelled after a soldier from the real army.

The Emperor's tomb remains unexcavated, though Siam Qian's writings suggest even greater treasures found in there. Duan Qinbao, a researcher with the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Institute said "It is best to keep the ancient tomb untouched, because of the complex conditions inside,". Perhaps what lies inside the tomb of the first Emperor of China can never be known. There might be greater wonders hidden inside it but for now, it will remain a mystery.

After 2,000 years, the Terracotta army still stands, waiting for their Emperor to awake, armed and ready for battle.;u=1681;sa=summary;u=126;sa=summary;u=1253

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