Unearthed Warriors

Today was awaited with much anticipation as it was our chance to visit the famous Terracotta Army Museum! Our bus brought us near the entrance of the museum, but after unloading, we took a golf cart to reach the heart of the excitement. As we made our way to Pit 1 (the largest of the unearthed pits and the one containing the most soldiers), I was giddy. It was hard to believe that I was about to be in the presence of the famed ancient warriors within a matter of moments.

Pit 1: Full of reconstructed soldiers and horses + thousands of broken pieces

I entered the makeshift arched hall and navigated through clumps of other tourists to get my first glimpse of the soldiers. And there they were: still and frozen, yet wondrously full of emotion and life. Row upon row of these soldiers stood in the ground below, an occasional cluster of horses broke up the sea of men. I was surprised by the amount of detail that went into the creation of each warrior. Their features were easily discernible, and an ample amount of variety was given to each of the different hairstyles, clothing, and expressions.


Although all of the soldiers faced sternly forward in preparation to defend their Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, there were no weapons to be seen. While many bronze arrowheads, swords, and other weaponry had been discovered in the pit, these were likely mounted onto wooden shafts which have since degraded over the past 2,000 years. Similarly, the clusters of horses among the ranks once pulled large, wooden chariots- these too, are no longer around. It was easy to get lost looking at the pit as the feeling of history, wonder, and mystery was thick in the air.

The middle soldier has his arms extended, at one time holding the reigns of a horse in his hands.

Although Pit 1 stretched over 16,000 square meters, most of the pit remained unexcavated to help preserve the paint and color of the remaining, buried artifacts. Since the Chinese believe to already know what lies beneath, there is no reason to dig it up and disrupt it.

Aside from the fully assembled soldiers in formation, there were many more broken pieces strewn along the floor. Next to the excavated portion of the pit, a small workshop was in place to show how the broken pieces could be carefully glued and bound together to bring the soldiers back to life. Unsurprisingly, the restoration process is slow and tedious, a complicated 3-dimensional puzzle of like-colored pieces.

After soaking up the grandeur of the first pit, we moved on to Pits 2 and 3. Pit 2 was similar in size to the first, with much of the area again left unexcavated. Pit 2 was the most complete pit of the three as it contained all the types of terracotta warriors found so far, including infantries, cavalries, chariot warriors, and archers.

Pit 2: Mostly unexcavated, but the texture in the ground signifies soldiers beneath
Where there had been excavation, you could see the carnage of broken, mixed pieces.

Next to the pit, there was a small exhibition gallery featuring soldiers of each rank on display behind glass. Their life sized features were impressive to see up close, and their imposing gaze could be felt through the glass. A few retained hues of their original terracotta color.

The last Pit was by far the smallest, but perhaps the most important as it held all of the higher-ranking generals. Believed to be the commanding center of the entire army, this pit comprised of 68 lifelike warriors, more weaponry, decorations, and even gold.

Even after leaving the museum, I was still wrapped in a sense of wonder and amazement. Seeing the assembled, standing army of Pit 1 in real life was truly a sight to behold. It was like the textbook pages of my middle school years had finally come to life. And all of this was discovered on accident by a farmer trying to dig a well!

Well, look at that.

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