Terracotta Warriors – Xi’an – Wednesday 1st August

Wednesday 1st August was our day to see the Terracotta Warriors – one of the marvels of China and our chance to clock up another UNESCO site – already had The Great Wall, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City down from previous trips.

The day started with an initial trip to the Terracotta Factory to see how they make the Terracotta Warriors in modern times.

Us all As Terracotta Warriors

Emily is a General and Molly, Kerrie and I Infantry

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One of the first things we learned was how to tell the ranks.  Generals wear a hat with two tops, officers a hat with one top, infantry a top knot to the right and archers a top knot to the left – so technically Molly in the picture above is an archer given her left top knot.

I was told the factory is one of only two who make Terracotta Warriors the traditional and proper way.  The main thing is the clay has to come from the Xi’an area as this clay gives the distinctive colour when fired.

The smalls warriors are made in one piece while the larger ones have their heads and arms made separate from the body and all stuck together with clay afterwards.

The girls and Sophia got the chance to make a small warrior. The clay is rolled into a sausage, laid along the mould half and then pressed in with some overlap over the edges of the mould. The two halves are then push together and allowed to dry for 10 mins before removing the warrior to be tidied up and fired.


Making their own Terracotta Warrior

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The Terracotta Warrior’s themselves are about a 3/4 hour drive out from Xi’an. China has built an amazing Museum complex around the Warriors and is great to see this and how it will preserve the Warriors. 

The Warriors are within three pits with Pit 1 being the main pit with over 6,000 Warriors, Pit 2 smaller with 2,000 and Pit 3 around 60 but Pit 3 is the ceremonial pit where sacrifices were made.  Each Pit has a huge building protecting it. 

Pit 1 is the largest of the pits and measures 230m long and 62m wide, covering an area of 14,260 square meters.

Between the rows of Warriors are earth-rammed walls. They are about 2.5 meters wide and were used to sustain the wood roof. The wood roof was originally covered with layers of fibre mats. Fine soil was then filled on the top of the mats. Obviously the roof decayed but on the walls you can see the impressions of the wood beams and how the layout was framed.

As mentioned earlier there are 4 types of Warriors – General, Officer, Infantry, Archer (kneeling and standing). The faces of each Warrior however is unique, representing members of the army of the Emperor at the time.


 Terracotta Warriors – Pit 1


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There is still much excavation to be done to recover and restore the Warriors. The pottery warriors and horses are stuck together from hundreds of broken pieces as they are excavated and recovered – a tedious and timely process.


Pit 1 – Examples of Pending Excavation

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The Terracotta Warriors were discovered in 1974, when local farmers were drilling a well in search of water and some pottery fragments were discovered.


Pit 3 – Small Sacrificial Pit

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Pit 2 – Largely Unexcavated

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Late afternoon we headed back into Xi’an, had a rest and then headed out for the evening to explore Xi’an.  We visited the Bell Tower which is in the centre of the main roundabout of the walled part of Xi’an.  The Bell Tower was built in 1384AD in the Ming Dynasty.


Xi’an Bell Tower

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