top of page

Chinese Art

The Tomb & The Terracotta Army

—A collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the army that still protects the tomb of the First Emperor of China today

In 1974, peasants in the countryside of Xi'an were digging a well and reached a depth of 4 meters. They discovered the head of a statue, its arms and the body all stylized in arms. They had just discovered one of the treasures of archaeology. Under their feet existed the terracotta copy of a Chinese army of 22 centuries ago. A 12,000 sqm pit along with 6,000 statues were discovered. Then, two more pits were discovered; one with 1000 warriors and another with the entire headquarters. 

The army had a rectangular pattern. The warriors are still in combat formation and are spread over 38 columns. There are cavalry, archers, crossbowmen and then aurighi (charioteers) with 4 horse-drawn carts. They were executed with extreme precision by making perfect copies of real soldiers by assembling various pieces. Each warrior has unique facial features. The infantry, archers, generals, and cavalry are different in their expressions, clothing, and hairstyles. They are very tall and standing on guard.   Every statue was colored and when seen from afar, had to look like a real army, motionless. The army is terracotta but in their hand, they had real weapons, all original; more than 10,000 were found: double-edged swords,  still very sharp today; hundreds and hundreds of darts, arrowheads and very strange blades that were fixed on top of wooden rods and functioned like a lance. Sharp and squat spear tips emerged and sharp daggers have been perfectly preserved. Finally, the shooting mechanisms of wooden crossbows have emerged that have, of course, disappeared, but the metal part has been perfectly preserved. This is because, to prevent corrosion, the craftsmen used chrome laminates so that these weapons looked brand new.


Why was the terracotta army made? The first Emperor who unified China, Qin Shi Huang Di, wanted it. The tomb is buried under a large mound that originates a hill and the army was to protect the tomb but also the emperor himself in the afterlife. After his death, large riots took place and the peasants went to take up arms from the soldiers, destroying them and burning the wooden structure that covered them, collapsing on them. In 1987 the mausoleum was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The Tomb & The Terracotta Army

Qin's Tomb & The Terracotta Army

Dated between 246-206 BCE, these pictured sculptures show the reproduction of the army that led the State of Qin, (end of the Warring States period, 476-221 BCE), to victory over their adversaries to result in the unification of the Chinese Empire.

It was by chance three of the 'graves' containing the famous terracotta warriors were discovered while some farmers were digging a well in Lintong County, about 30km away from Xi 'an, in 1974. They had unknowingly stumbled upon a massive funerary complex belonging to the first Chinese emperor in history, Qin Shihuang (Kingdom 221-210 BCE).

Archaeologists went on to excavate the entire army of terracotta warriors, totalling 8000 all dressed in armor, and equipped with weapons, meant to guard the tomb of their Emperor for eternity. They also found 18 wooden chariots and 100 terracotta horses at the site. 

The Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang contains a large number of precious cultural relics, such as silk, fresco and paintings according to historical records, but has yet to be properly excavated.




Forbidden City Architecture

Aerial shot of the Forbidden City, Beijing, China 🇨🇳


Built: 1406–1420 (Ming dynasty)

Architect: Kuai Xiang

Architectural style(s): Chinese architecture

Area: 72 hectares


The Great Wall of China

The one thing most people “know” about the Great Wall of China—that it is one of the only man-made structures visible from space—is not actually true. Since the wall looks a lot like the stone and soil that surround it, it is difficult to discern with the human eye even from low Earth orbit, and is difficult to make out in most orbital photos. However, this does not detract from the wonder of this astounding ancient structure.

For millennia, Chinese leaders instituted wall-building projects to protect the land from northern, nomadic invaders. One surviving section of such an ancient wall, in the Shandong province, is made of hard-packed soil called “rammed earth” and is estimated to be 2,500 years old.

For centuries during the Warring States Period, before China was unified into one nation, such walls defended the borders. Around 220 B.C.E., Qin Shi Huang, also called the First Emperor, united China. He masterminded the process of uniting the existing walls into one. At that time, rammed earth and wood made up most of the wall.

Emperor after emperor strengthened and extended the wall, often with the aim of keeping out the northern invaders. In some places, the wall was constructed of brick. Elsewhere, quarried granite or even marble blocks were used. The wall was continuously brought up to date as building techniques advanced.

Zhu Yuanzhang, who became the Hongwu Emperor, took power in 1368 C.E. He founded the Ming Dynasty, famous for its achievements in the arts of ceramics and painting. The Ming emperors improved the wall with watchtowers and platforms. Most of the familiar images of the wall show Ming-era construction in the stone. Depending on how the wall is measured, it stretches somewhere between 4,000 and 5,500 kilometers (2,500 and 3,400 miles).

In the 17th century, the Manchu emperors extended Chinese rule into Inner Mongolia, making the wall less important as a defense. However, it has retained its importance as a symbol of Chinese identity and culture.

Countless visitors view the wall every year. It may not be clearly visible from space, but it is considered “an absolute masterpiece” here on Earth.

bottom of page