Great Wall and Terracotta Army


In 256 the Zhou dynasty ended without secure succession enabling the Qin to establish control by 221.


Although the Qin ruled for less than twenty years they centralized authority to mobilize armies of men for building and fighting, and they standardized weights, currency and writing. Their burning of books may have been an attempt to eradicate the past to magnify their own achievements as the first imperial dynasty of China.

Qin Dynasty map

Qin Dynasty map

Qin Great Wall

The Great Wall and the Terracotta Army attest to the power of Qin.

The wall project was so large that practical measures were used to speed construction, such as using stone when it was readily available and rammed earth when it was not. Brick was not used before the Ming Dynasty

Map showing the Great Wall during the Qin Dynasty


Ming Dynasty Great Wall

and much of the wall visible today dates from their rule.

Photo of Great Wall section

While the Great Wall has been visible, the Terracotta Army of the first emperor of China, was hidden in Xian until 1974. Recognized as a World Heritage site in 1987, it is so large that much remains buried.

Screenshot - UNESCO

The tomb was found by accident in 1974 north east of Xian.

Map showing location of Terracotta warriors

Site of the tomb (A)  in relation to Xian

View of the warrior pit

Photo - view of the warrior pit

A geographer who wrote around 500AD said that the site of Mt. Li, part of the Qingling range, had been chosen for the tomb complex because it had a gold mine to the north and a jade mine to the south. Today a national park, Mt. Li is said to "shine like a beacon in the evening sunlight".

Tomb of Qinshihuang

The tomb of Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China who died in 210, lies under an earthen pyramid 76 meters tall and nearly 350 square meters. It has not been excavated.

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Four pits have been excavated.

Walls of rammed earth delineate them.

Pit 1, 230 metres long, is the best known with its estimated 8,000 terracotta figures. It has corridors generally more than three metres wide, with brick-paved floor and timber-clad ceiling supported by posts and protected from damp by reed mats and layers of clay.

Pit 2, with cavalry an infantry, may be a 'military guard', Pit 3, a command post with officers of high rank. Pit 4 was left unfinished.

The historian Sima Qian (145-90BC) records that the tomb complex was begun in 246, employed more than 700,000 men, and had palaces, wonderful man-made things, and the wonders of nature recreated in the form of rivers of mercury 'below' and celestial 'above'.


Warriors from Pit 2

The L-shaped Pit 2, lying northeast of 1, covers more than 7000 square yards, has more than 80 chariots and 1300 warriors and men with thousands of bronze weapons.

"Section 1: Lying in the eastern corner of the pit, this section has a square shape. There are four corridors around the four sides where 60 crossbowmen are in standing posture. In the center of the square, there are four east-west passageways where 160 crossbowmen are aligned in squatting position.

Section 2: Lying in the right of the pit, section 2 measures 57 yards from east to west and 52 yards from north to south. Sixty-four war chariots make up a combat formation, which is divided into eight rows. Each of the chariots is pulled by four life-sized terra-cotta horses. Three warriors are side by side behind the chariot, with the middle one driving the carriage and the others standing on either side.

Section 3: In the center of the pit, is a rectangular combat formation made up of 264 foot soldiers and eight cavalrymen, as well as 19 war chariots. There are three clusters. One cavalryman stands in front of a horse with one hand drawing a bow and the other hand holding the rein. Additionally, there are between eight and thirty-six foot soldiers standing in each chariot.

Section 4: In the left of the pit, there are three east-west passageways where all the cavalrymen are aligned. The section measures 55 yards from east to west and 25 yards from north to south. The four sections make up an impregnable fortress. Next to the pit, there is a large exhibition hall which has the most complete range of functions and is where visitors can directly witness the excavation work in Pit 2." Travel China

Terracotta warriors

Warriors from Pit 3

The smaller Pit 3, 25 meters west of Pit 1, and covering 520 square meters, has 68 warriors and one chariot, and might have been a command centre.

Warriors from Pit 3

Polychromy of the terracotta warriors

Although many thousands of terracotta warriors have been found very few preserve traces of their original painted decoration.

Terracotta warriors

Bronze chariots

In addition to the terracotta army two bronze half-size chariots were discovered in 1980. The forward chariot has a driver in a two-seater chariot with an umbrella, the second is an unmanned.

Bronze chariots

Builders' burial pit

Besides these three pits other 'accessory pits' near by have also been excavated: builder's graveyards, slaughter pits, rare birds and animals pits and the stable pits.

Builders' burial pit

Slaughter pits

The slaughter pits have instruments of torture. The luxury items found with the dead suggest that they were royals.

Slaughter pits

Rare bird and animal pit

The largest pit had the exotic creatures that the emperor might hunt in the next life.

Rare bird and animal pit


Acrobats' pit

He would also wish to be entertained too. In 1999 pits with painted acrobats were found.

Acrobats' pit

The terracotta army has captured the world's imagination.

Terracotta warrior