Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Army
We were fortunate to visit the terracotta army site on our first visit to China. Perhaps that is a big part of why we fell in love with China.
Creating the terracotta army 2200 years ago was a feat unto itself. In addition to the thousands of warriors, there are hundreds of horses and chariots. It is remarkable that each warrior has a uniquely formed head/face though the bodies are common based on function (i.e. archers, infantrymen, etc.). They were all once colourfully painted as well.
The army figures were all originally placed in excavated, 7m deep pits which were covered with logs and then buried. The army was organized as it would have been on the battlefield. The pits for the regular soldiers were long narrow trenches while the commanders were placed in much smaller, rectangular pits.
Soon after its construction, the statues in the pits were ransacked and set on fire. Most of the terracotta figures were smashed so the ones we see today have largely been reconstructed from terracotta fragments.
Things are always different from what you imagine and this site was no exception. To protect the site, three very large, open span buildings have been constructed. You view the armies by entering each of the buildings and walking around the perimeter. You look down at the army figures in their original pits. It is only possible to get up close and personal with some of the excavated treasures by visiting a separate museum that has been constructed on site.
One of most remarkable features of the site is the emperor's mausoleum. It is located under a massive man-made 76m tall mound of earth creating an impressive, climbable hill, with nothing more to see. We did climb to the top of the mausoleum hill. I remember that we were pretty hot and sweaty upon reaching the top.