40 years ago, Xi’an was little more than an old ‘had been’ city of the ancient silk road. As mentioned in my previous post, it was Chinas western most trading point where the east and west mixed. But thanks to a marvelous discovery by an unassuming farmer looking for an extra source of water, this city has been changed forever. As he was drilling his well, he found some unexpected pottery remains about 15 meters underground. Soon the city and surrounding area was abuzz with the discovery of what some claim to be the 8th ancient wonder of the world! The underground Terracotta Warriors.
In 1974 they began excavating this site and soon found that those pieces of pottery were just the first few pieces of a huge, archeological puzzle. After much digging and surveying the land, they estimate that there are the remains of over 8,000 of these ancient warriors along with many of their chariot and horse counterparts, all made of clay and some metal pieces. The warriors were built in 300-200 BC during the reign of Qin Shi Huang. That is over 2,000 years ago!! Each soldier is designed with unique facial features showing the intricate detail that each piece was given. It is estimated that over 700,000 people were employed (or enslaved) in the production of such a marvelous undertaking. Each figure is life size and given hairstyle according to their rank. Many were also handling weaponry and individually painted to make them more realistic and lively.
As incredible as the production of these warriors must have been, I found the archeological process even more involved and impressive at times. These soldiers were buried under 8-10 meters of earth. At the base you will find the warriors smashed into a thousand pieces and scattered along the floor. In the first pit you can see where the archeologists have carefully labeled each piece they excavated and are slowly piecing the warriors back together giving them new life. Careful attention must be given to the contour of each piece to line it up with the rest of the warriors face and body, as well as keeping track of where it was found in the pits.
Using this discovery, a lot is being learned of ancient Chinese civilization. These warriors give us a clear, preserved picture of how this civilization dressed, the weapons used, the artistic value, as well as giving us a glimpse into their battle strategies. The soldiers were lined in specific formations showing us their military plans. There is still so much to be discovered in this site and thousands of warriors to still be unearthed and recreated. The process has only just begun. Since its discovery, the site has brought millions of viewers from all over the world and many political leaders including one record breaking day of 460,000 people! UNESCO has protected it as a World Heritage Site for its unique preservation of ancient culture. No trip through central China is complete without visiting this ancient underground army!!