Terracotta Army

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The Terracotta Army housed in the tomb of the First Emperor of Qin is one of the most famous sights in China. Discovered in 19XX, it includes X life-size terracotta statues of soldiers and their horses, each unique and possibly based on a real individual.

The tomb itself, located just outside Xi'an, has not yet been excavated, in part because of practical concerns, and in part due to fears of the emperor's angry spirit. According to the writings of Sima Qian, the tomb is said to have been built by 7,000 conscript laborers, and to contain the entire empire in miniature, with not only models of palaces and pavilions, but also of an underground lake of quicksilver (mercury), fed by the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers in miniature and meant to represent the ocean. The cosmos is represented in some fashion on the ceiling. Other Han Dynasty writings suggest the tomb may be lit by ever-burning torches of some sort, and filled with booby traps in the style of Indiana Jones, to thwart anyone who dares to disturb the resting place of the Emperor, buried within a copper coffin at the center of the complex.


  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 48.