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Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army statues as they appear todayTerracotta Army statues as they appear today Qin emperor Shi Huangdi was a ruthless, determined man, but he had one great fear: death. In ancient times, people worshipped many different gods. Most people also believed in an afterlife. But this was the unknown and many feared what might happen to them. Shi Huangdi was no exception. Soon after he became emperor in 221 BC, he began to plan his tomb and 700,000 workers were ordered to build it. The emperor wanted his tomb to be guarded by an army of 8000 life-size soldiers made of a baked clay called terracotta. They were there to protect the emperor’s spirit. When he died in 210 BC, thousands of statues of soldiers were buried alongside him in his tomb.

The Terracotta Army as it looked when newly createdThe Terracotta Army as it looked when newly created
One of the pits at Shi Huangdi's tombOne of the pits at Shi Huangdi's tomb

Discovery of the tomb

Shi Huangdi’s Terracotta Army lay undisturbed for many hundreds of years until some Chinese labourers found some statues while digging a well. Archaeologists began to excavate the area and in 1974 they discovered the emperor’s tomb. Since then, scientists have uncovered several pits containing about 8000 clay soldiers, chariots and horses. Many of the statues were broken when discovered, and their colours (all had been painted) had almost disappeared.

Appearance of the statues

Shi Huangdi’s necropolis, his burial "city", is a miniature version of his palace. It contains not just the Terracotta Army, but also offices, halls and stables, complete with statues of officials, actors, acrobats, musicians and strongmen.

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