Museum of Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses

In March 1974 when several farmers were sinking a well about 1.5 kilometers east of the First Qin Emperor's Mausoleum, they came upon many fragments of terracotta figures. The results of archaeological excavation showed that it was an oblong pit with terracotta warriors and horses. In 1976, two more pits were discovered 20 meters and 25 meters north of the former one respectively. They were then named Pit 1, Pit 2, and Pit 3 by order of discovery. The three pits cover a total area of 22,780 square meters.

The new discovery stirred up a sensation all over the world. In order to provide the historic artifacts with adequate protection, a museum was set up upon the approval of the State Council in 1975 and was officially open to the public on October 1, 1979. As one of the top ten places of historic interest in China, the Museum of the First Qin Emperor's Terracotta Army was listed as the world heritage by UNESCO in 1987. 

Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses

Pit One

Pit one takes an oblong shape. It is 230 meters long, 62 meters wide and five meters deep. It covers an area of 14,260 square meters. 

The terracotta warriors and horses in Pit One are arrayed in battle formation. In the long corridor to the east end of the pit stand three rows of terracotta warriors facing east in battle robes, 70 in each row, totaling 210. Armed with bows and arrows, they constitute the vanguard. There is one row of warriors in the south, north and west of the corridor respectively, facing outward. They are probably the flanks and the rear guard. Holding crossbows and arrows and other long-distance shooting weapons, they took up the job of defending the whole army. The ten rammed partition walls divid Pit One into 11 latitudinal corridors where stand 38 columns of warriors facing east with horse-drawn chariots in the center. These warriors are probably the main body of the formation and represent the principal fighting force. It is assumed that more than 6, 000 terracotta warriors and horses could be unearthed from Pit One, most of which are infantrymen.

Attractive Terracotta Warriors Xian

Pit Two

Pit Two is measured 6, 000 square meters and is located 20 meters to the north of the eastern end of Pit One. The pit is L-shaped and consists of four different mixed military forces in four arrays. It is estimated that there are over 1, 000 terracotta figures, 500 chariot horses and saddled horses. The four arrays are closely connected to constitute a complete battle formation and can be divided up to act independently, capable of attacking and defending and quick response. Three of the four arrays in Pit Two have charioteers. The chariots took up most of the battle formation. This proves that charioteers were still the principal fighting forces in the Qin Dynasty. The wooden chariots have become decayed with age, but the shafts and wheels left clear traces in the clay. The bronze parts of the chariots remain intact. 

Archaeological excavations show that Pit One and Pit Two were destroyed after a fire. When it was burnt down and who did it was not recorded in history. There are various opinions about its destruction in the academic world. The floors of both the two pits were covered with a layer of silt, 15 to 20 centimeters thick. The remains of crossbeams and logs burnt to ashes can be clearly seen and most of the relics remain fragmented. This illustrates that the pits were destroyed soon after they were completed.

Xian Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum

Pit Three 

Pit Three is located 25 meters to the north of Pit One and to the west of Pit Two, totaling about 520 square meters. One chariot, four terracotta horses and 68 warriors were unearthed from the pit. To its east there is a sloping entrance, opposite that is a stable. On either side of the stable there is a winging room. 64 terracotta figures were unearthed from the two rooms. The arrangement of the figures is quite different from that in Pit One and Pit Two, in which the warriors are placed in battle formation. But those in Pit Three are arrayed opposite to each other along the walls, in two rows. 

Only one kind of weapon called shu was discovered in Pit Three. This kind of weapon had no blades and is believed to be used by the guards of honor. Unearthed also in this pit were a remaining deer-horn and animal bones. This is probably the place where sacrificial offerings and war prayers were practiced. Judging from the layout of pit Three, this is most likely the headquarters directing the mighty underground army.

The Making of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses 

The height of the terracotta warriors varies from 1.78 meters (the shortest) to 1.97 meters (the tallest). Their weights are also different. The lightest is less than 110 kilograms and the heaviest 300 kilograms. The roughly made models were carved exquisitely in detail according to their personal strata and characters. Finally, moustache and hair in various styles were made. After careful and detailed engraving, the terracotta warriors looked vivid, different in appearance and expressions. It is presumed that each warrior was made according to the real valiant Qin army soldier. 

After the terra cotta warriors were readily made, they were put into kilns to be baked. The clay figures were carefully painted with colors after they were baked. As the figures have been burnt and gone through a natural process of decay, we can't see their original gorgeous colors. However, most of the figures bear the traces of the original colors, and a few of them are still as bright as new. 

The Qin Weapons in Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses, Xian

The Qin Weapons

Thousands of real weapons were unearthed from the pits, including broad knives, swords, spears, dagger-axes, halberds, arrows, crossbows, and arrowheads. The weapons can be classified into four categories; long-shafted weapons, short weapons, long-range weapons and weapons for guards of honor. They were delicately made and enjoyed a high level of casting technology.

The most arresting among the weapons is a bronze sword, which still glitters in metallic luster without being rusting, though buried underground for over 2,000 years. Technical examination reveals that the sword is composed of an alloy of copper and tin, and more than ten other rare metals. It is plated with a thin layer (10 to 15 microns) of chromium coating was invented by the German in 1930's, but in China chromium-coating technique was employed in the making of weapons over 2, 000 years ago. It is really a wonder and compels admiration.

The Bronze Chariots and Horses of Emperor Qin Shi Huang

The Bronze Chariots and Horses

In December 1980, two sets of large painted bronze chariots and horses were unearthed 20 meters west of the First Qin Emperor's Mausoleum. They were labeled as Chariot No. One and Chariot No. Two respectively by the order of discovery.

The bronze chariots drawn by four horses, with a single shaft, were placed one before the other vertically. No. Two Chariot was fitted with more than 1, 500 pieces of silver and gold and other ornaments. Probably it was used for the First Qin Emperor's soul to go out on inspection. No. One Chariot was equipped with crossbows, arrowheads and shields. The charioteer wore a hat. This shows that it was employed to protect the No. Two Chariot behind.

The chariots and horses are exact imitations of actual chariots and horses in half life-size. Each chariot with horses is composed of 3,400 parts. The total weight of the chariot, the horses and the driver is 1,243 kilograms. The main body is cast in bronze. There are altogether 1,720 pieces of gold and silver ornaments on the chariots and horses, with a total weight of seven kilograms. According to preliminary research, the making of the bronze chariots and horses involves different techniques such as casting, welding, riveting, mounting, embedding and carving.

The bronze chariots and horses were the earliest and most exquisitely and intricately made bronze valuables. They enjoy the highest class and have the most complete harnessing wares. They are also the largest bronze wares discovered in the history of the world archaeology. The excavation of the bronze chariots and horses provides extremely valuable material and data for the textual research of the metallurgical technique, the mechanism and technological modeling of chariots in the Qin Dynasty. 


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