I am a huge history buff and something that has always fascinated me is the Terracotta Army located just outside Xi’an in the Shaanxi province of China. When I was a child, I wanted to be an archaeologist and getting to see one of the greatest archaeological finds of modern times was something I could only dream of back then.
Ying Zheng ascended the throne at the ripe old age of 13 after the death of his father, Yiren, in 246 B.C. Almost immediately after taking the throne, he began planning his burial and ordered the construction of thousand of terracotta warriors, horses and chariots, artisans and various other things to protect him when he passed into the Afterlife. He fashioned himself a new name, Qin Shi Huangdi, which loosely translates to “First Emperor of Qin” and his relatively short reign would be the catalyst to ancient China’s modernization.
Qin Shi Huangdi’s next order of business was to spread his military out and conquer the surrounding states; he wanted to unite China under one ruler. As he conquered new principalities, he would bring the ruling families back to his capital, Xianyang, and set them up in a small palace similar to the one they were forced to abandon. As the nation slowly came together, the Emperor began to standardize the system of currency, writing, measurements, and weaponry. As all of this was taking place, hundreds of thousands of artisans were mass-producing terracotta figures for Qin Shi Huangdi’s future tomb.
Now fast forward to 1974 as a group of peasants were digging a well in the Shaanxi province when they stumbled across fragments of a clay figure. Government archaeologists were called to the site and throughout the past few decades, more than 600 pits have been discovered underground. Only a few are open for viewing and they showcase more than just warriors, Qin Shi Huangdi fashioned for himself a replica of the organization that surrounded him in life.
The most fascinating thing to me is that despite being the product of one of the first mass-production lines in history, each of these warriors have their own distinct facial features, clothing and weaponry. The warriors themselves show partial, though faded, coloring that suggests each were painted with different variations of bright colors. To this day, you can visit the Museum and see some of the estimated at 7,000 terracotta warriors that Qin Shi Huangdi surrounded himself with in an attempt to conquer death.