Monday 24 February 2014

Terracotta Army

One of the great things we did in Madrid was visiting the exhibition of the Terracotta Army.
Especially after finding out the facts about it you will be even more intrigued. 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses and also non military terracotta figures like officials, acrobats, musicians and strongmen are found surrounding the tomb of  Qin Shi Huang. These were made to accompany and protect the first Emperor of China in his afterlife. The Emperor was buried in 210 BC, more than 2200 years ago.

An old Chinese tradition was that when a leader died, his entire household would be killed and buried with him to serve him in his afterlife. This cruel ritual was to show loyalty to their leader but also so that they could serve him in the afterlife as well. Many graves are found like that with often 100-200 bodies in it, the leader with his wife, bodyguards, servants and the rest of the household were all buried at the same place.

But Qin Shi Huang became the first Emperor of China after uniting the 7 kingdoms which before then had been in war for 250 years. This war had reduced the population of China so much that the old ritual of killing entire households was a luxury that could not be done, and the emperor found a solution that was not inhuman; making an army of Terracotta.

Each soldier had weapons like spears, swords and crossbows. Many are now missing either due to the 2200 years of rotting or stolen, but some have been found.

One of the most amazing facts is that no face is the same, each of the 8000 soldiers are unique! For the arms, legs and heads, molds were used but then they were altered by hand to make them unique. The bodies were entirely made out of hand and are all different, the work was tremendous and it is estimated that thousands of people must have worked on this army.

The Terracotta is now clay colored but originally they were vibrantly painted to make them look more realistic. As soon as the Terracotta gets in contact with air the paint vaporizes and disappears, sometimes in a few seconds. The details are amazing, what a history.

Uncovering all the soldiers and most often shreds of terracotta and restoring them has already been going on since 1974, after 2 farmers found pieces while digging for a water well. And uncovering and restoring everything will take many more decades, maybe even centuries.

Most of the statues were replicas in the exhibition, only those behind glass were the real ones, but the replicas give a good idea of how impressive so many together must look like.

To appreciate even more the tremendous amount of work and amazing discoveries that have been made about the Terracotta army I strongly recommend you this documentary below, it is the one they were also showing at the exhibition and I'm glad that I found it on YouTube to share with you, be prepared to be wow-ed!


  1. sooooo awesome!
    I'd love to see that in real! it must have been incredible!

  2. I've heard so much about these statues, it must be impressive to see them in real!

  3. It's funny but last night I watched on tv a documentary about Terracotta Army. Great post!!! Thanks for sharing :) :)

  4. i saw them too a while ago in brussels ! Although a big part of them are replica's, they still are amazing !