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The Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin
Written by Shin Lee | Published. 2019.08.02 22:19 | Count : 343

Everyone in a high school history class would have learned about the Terracotta Warriors of Emperor Qin. As an influential figure in the Ancient Chinese history, Emperor Qin’s necropolis is considered a great feat.

[Entrance of the Emperor Qin Mausoleum Site Museum, taken by Shin Lee]

 This summer, on a family trip to Xi’an, I visited the excavation site of the Terracotta Warriors. Unlike other on-going excavation sites, the Mausoleum was covered with domes and walls to protect the artifacts that were excavated, and one also had to get through security checks in order to get in the site (this was fairly agreeable since this was an important historical site that needs to be protected.)

[Pit I of the Emperor Qin Mausoleum, taken by Shin’s mother]

Initially, I was tired from the endless waves of tourists in the dome. I almost felt like suffocating. However, as soon as I entered the mausoleum, I was amazed by the endless pieces of warriors standing on the site. Unlike seeing them only from the pictures, when I got to see the necropolis, the enormous collection of pottery seemed very alive. By alive, I mean that none of the designs were the same. Their faces, hair shapes, body types, and even the clothes they wore varied. (This is because Emperor Qin wanted his men to go with him when he passed away, so he made all of his soldiers and servants to make pottery that looked exactly like themselves.)

The excavation site was huge, and there were multiple pits from which the warriors were excavated. There were also additional pits currently dug for further research. The three pits I visited were still in process of excavation, since it takes years to recover the shattered pieces of Terracotta into soldiers. Some soldiers did not have heads, and the reason is that the archeologists found the pieces unable to be matched.

However, Pit II has stopped its excavation temporarily due to the lack of technology. Chinese archeologists lack the capability to keep the original colors of the warriors when they were first made. The color vanishes when it contacts oxygen, so the second pit, which is expected to hold the most valuable pieces, is not excavated now. 

Once discovered by the farmers who were digging wells for water, the necropolis preserved Chinese history and culture back then. For example, the weapons that the army of Emperor Qin used were discovered as well as the architectural skills ancient Chinese possessed back in Qin dynasty by examining the entrances and the form of the grave. More technology developed in Ancient China could be seen in other works such as the form of armors, shoes that are not slippery, brick-baking processes in Qin Dynasty, and more.

The trip to Emperor Qin’s mausoleum was enjoyable. Not only was I able to check the knowledge I learned from school but also know intriguing details about the necropolis such as how to distinguish military ranks by analyzing the Warrior’s shoe shape. Observing the archeological process of excavating human artifacts and how historical sites were treated was also a great experience to expand my knowledge of history. The sites were not finished excavating, but Pit II makes me excited for its Emperor Qin’s Terracotta Warriors, especially because Pit II contains more valuable pieces of Terracotta, including the Emperor’s special forces. I cannot wait for the improvement of technology to preserve color and see the colored Terracotta Warriors instead of mono-colored grey ones. 

Shin Lee
Western Reserve Academy

Shin Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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