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City Guides / Guides

The world’s largest underground military museum

By Weiwei Guan

May 5

Were Terracotta Warriors originally grey?

Were Terracotta Warriors originally grey?

The Chinese people had a tradition to “serve the dead as they would have served them alive” in ancient times. During Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s (259 -210 b.c.) reign, over 2,000 years ago, he had 720,000 people spend 38 years building him a mausoleum as a representation of his supreme authority.

The mausoleum, Terracotta Warriors included, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is also regarded as the world’s largest underground military museum.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Terracotta Warriors Museum during his visit to China on May 14, 2015. [Image Credit: VCG]
Unearthed by local farmers in Lintong County of Shaanxi Province in 1974, the site of the Terracotta Warriors covers more than 20,000 square meters and includes chariots, horses, weapons and an estimated 8,000 lifelike clay soldiers, each of which were meticulously carved with different features, dressings and even expressions. You will not find two identical warriors. The Terracotta Warriors site is claimed to be one of the eighth wonders of the world.

Kneeling archer statues. [Image Credit: VCG]
Were Terracotta Warriors originally grey? No. Archaeological investigations found that the statues had many colors: their hands were painted pink and their beards and hair black. In addition, they were all dressed in different colors. A total of 20 tones made from natural mineral substances were used to paint the statues. However, only remnants of the colors remained on some of the warriors when unearthed in 1974. In 1998, eight well-preserved kneeling archer statues were found with large colored areas still intact.

Exquisite hair details of the Terracotta Warriors can be seen clearly. [Image Credit: VCG]
The relics are dehydrated after being unearthed and the layers of paint easily fall off, which poses a challenge to restoring and protecting the statues. Today, radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology has been used to better protect the cultural relics. Each of the Terracotta Warriors has been attached with an ID tag for real-time monitoring.

Copper carriage and horses excavated from the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. [Image Credit: VCG]
The Terracotta Warriors have always been a must-visit spot along the ancient Silk Road, attracting visitors from both home and abroad, including many political leaders from around the world. During the past three-day Labor Day holiday, the area welcomed over 120,000 visitors, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year.

If you love historical relics and find yourself near Xi’an, you will not want to miss a visit to the Terracotta Warrior Museum. The admission goes from 150 yuan in peak season (March-November) to 120 yuan in slow season (December-February).

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