Our second day in Xi’an, our guide took us to a factory where they make Terracotta Warriors and lacquer furniture. At first we were under the impression it was educational. But after an hour of room, after room of things to buy, we discovered she and the driver set us up for a buying spree, which we did not bite. The stuff there was beautiful, better than what we saw at the Terracotta Warrior Museum, but we would have rather spent more time at the site than there. After we left, the driver and guide took us to the Terracotta Warrior Museum.
The Warriors were discovered after a farmer was digging for a well and found an artifact. The farmer still lives today and no longer farms since the find. Instead, he sits on a chair, in the gift shop, at the museum and signs a book for $100RMB each. 40 years of signing a book, could you imagine? He is quite old now. Could not photograph him without a purchase, so no picture of him.
As for the warriors, the story goes, in 247BC, when the 13-year old Zheng became King of the State of Qin, he commenced work on his burial, including the warriors that symbolized the defending force that guarded the capitol as he was alive. In 221BC, he had conquered six states, created the nation that became China and then declared himself Qin Shi Huang Di, the First Emperor of Qin. He was the first to unite China.
Soon after completion and his death in 210BC, the pits containing the warriors were seriously damaged. Many figures were broken, great number of the bronze weapons were looted, the wooden structures in the pits were burned down and the roofs caved in. According to some past archeologists, the rebel army led by Xiang Yu, Overloard of the West Chu was responsible.
This museum is located in a rural area about 45 minutes away from Xi’an. It’s a large piece of land that consists of open space with three large buildings covering pits where the warriors have been buried for over 2,200 years.
- Pit One is assumed to have over 50 chariots and 6,000 warriors and horses. It’s 230 meters by 62 meters. So far, only 2,000 warriors and horses and 20 wooden chariots have been unearthed. The warriors, horses and chariots are all in battle formation: At the East end, three rows of vanguards are placed with the outer edge having one row of soldiers facing facing out respectively as flanks to guard the sides and rear of the army.
- Pit Two is L-shaped and has more complex battle formations. It’s assumed to carry over 80 chariots and 1,300 warriors and horses. This pit is where they have found the archers. Pit One is said to be the first to attack, the ground forces. And Pit Two would come in second. In this pit, the only warrior, an archer, to have been unearthed and in one piece, was found here.
- Pit Three is U-shaped, smaller, and different than Pit One and Pit Two. Where One and Two are battlefields, Pit Three is said to be the headquarters or command center of the warriors. It consists of only 68 officers, four horses and one chariot. Most of the warriors in Pit Three don’t have heads. It is suspected they were removed and destroyed. Also, where Pit One and Pit Two are nowhere near completely excavated, Pit Three was thoroughly unearthed in 1977.
The archaeologists are in no rush to complete the excavation of Pit One and Three due to the damage the air causes the warriors. When unearthed, the warriors are beautifully painted and lacquered. Once the air hits the lacquer, it dries out and the paint falls off with it; leaving what we see in the photos. What peaked our interest the most was the story we were told to how the warriors were damaged and then comparing the story to what we saw. We were told the roof caved in, cracking and damaging all of the warriors. Hard to believe since all the roofs still in place are relatively flat and showed no signs of collapse beyond compression. Whereas, the warriors and horses are broken in various places; more than what a roof compressing would do.
After some deeper investigation after getting back to the states, I found an interesting article from John Bell of the UK Geological Society. He was told the same story we were and found it did not match up with what he saw when he visited the museum also. So he set out to find the cause. First, he confirmed that fire did not consume all of the pits, nor could it since little to no air was in the earth-filled site. Also, archaeologists confirmed not all of the pits were hit by fire, only a little. He found that China has been keeping excellent records of earthquakes for thousands of years. After viewing the utter destruction of the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan and Shaanxi Provinces, he speculates a devastating earthquake to be the cause of all the damage.
He went through all the earthquake records and found in 1556AD a massive earthquake occurred. It was epi-centered only 40km from the warriors and was said to have killed more than 830,000 people; devastating a vast area of China and wiping out whole towns. Data also showed 35 EQa between 1177 and 1834AD that occurred close to where the warriors are located. Considering how the warriors look, this makes sense. What do you think when you look at the photos?
There are no photos of Pit Two. There was little light, not much is unearthed and I could not handhold a shot of what was. I did get the archer and a few others that were on display behind glass. Also, there was one more building that housed two half-life sized horses and chariots that are said to belong to the emperor. They were located in a pit next to his Mausoleum. We never got the chance to see it. We asked, but time ran out. We made it just in time for the train to depart.
…Click on any image to enlarge. Or better yet… click on the first photo and scroll through them all