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Emperor Qinshihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Visiting the Terra-cotta Warriors
For millennia, the story of the great tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, was nothing more than myth. It wasn’t until 1974 when the digging of a well happened to unearth a buried terra-cotta warrior that Qin’s tomb became solid fact. The thousands of life-sized figures are now on display where they were found in a field in Xi'an.

It is extremely crowded the day I visit. The other tourists swell around me as I enter the first pit—the largest of three archaeological digs on site. The pit appears to be covered in a giant airplane hangar, and the surging crowd crawls to a stop right at its entrance.

Ahead of me are rows and rows of life-size terra-cotta men in marching formation. Sprinkled throughout the sprawling mass of men are terra-cotta horses and various weapons. Not all figures have been reassembled after their 2000 years underground, and I can see, farther back, broken clay pieces.

It really is staggering to see the figures in person. It is said that no two faces are the same, and as I focus my lens on the statues, my camera’s face-detection system is lighting up. Little blue boxes appear over every terra-cotta head on my camera screen.

The scope is difficult to comprehend. As I walk to the back of the building, I watch the eyes of the statues. Some have heads tilted to stare right back at me.

The scale of the site rapidly overwhelms me, and I don’t feel very connected to the place. It is certainly worth visiting, but ultimately mind-boggling.

Lintong, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
+86 29 8139 9001
Sun - Sat 8:30am - 5pm