Terracotta Warriors of Xian

Take a journey of surprise and discovery to the heart of China with a visit to the terra cotta warriors in Xian. In 1974, a group of Chinese farmers digging a well made an accidental, astonishing discovery—a powerful, underground army, 9,000 soldiers strong, all crafted from terra cotta clay. The terra cotta warriors of Xian offer a unique opportunity to visit a vibrant, archaeological excavation. Imagine walking through an active archaeological site with your family, marveling at the unique display of warriors and equipment while an international team of experts diligently work to uncover and repair ever more of the magnificent display. Built in the year 210 BC, these warriors were crafted to accompany China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, into the afterlife. Having never accomplished a feat such as this, over 700,000 artisans and laborers worked for more than 40 years to devise, build, and stage this stunning display of craftsmanship all to be buried with Emperor Qin. We see here one of the first instances of modular design—pieces of the warriors were crafted separately (limbs, torso, head) and then assembled. The terra cotta warriors of Xian are exceptional in that each sports unique characteristics. Artisans varied each warrior’s facial expressions, body positions, facial hair, and clothing details in order to create distinct warriors. Even the size of the warriors was varied to indicate relative rank. Your children can hone their powers of observation as they try to pick out different roles and ranks within the carefully assembled army. The terra cotta warriors also reveal on a grand scale the battle tactics of the time. You will learn how the careful organization and placement of all the warriors reflects classic battle structures of armies during the Qin dynasty. In addition to the soldiers, archaeologists have also unearthed almost 700 terra cotta horses, and 130 terra cotta chariots in the pits.

Visitors to Xian will find themselves welcomed to three underground pits, covering over 200,000 square feet, to survey the army as it stands at attention. Though initially safeguarded with lethal traps, Emperor Qin’s tomb is now open to all tourists who can feel free to explore this legendary site. Watch your children’s eyes light up with wonder as they gaze across at this vast, imposing army and see the possibilities of human achievement realized on a grand scale.

The terra cotta warriors of Xian offer an excellent mix of educational opportunities. The vibrant, multi-cultural city of Xian itself also provides additional learning opportunities for the entire family. The walled city of Xian offers opportunities for exploration from bike rides along the city wall, to sampling the delectable treats sold from colorful stands in the Muslim Quarter.

From the astonishing engineering achievements of Chinese scholars and artists to the cultural experiences of modern day, bustling Xian, the terra cotta warriors provide a wide range of unique and memorable learning experiences for your entire family.

Learning Opportunities:

• Understand the engineering challenges of such a large project and how solutions were found.

• Connect the placement of soldiers to military formations of the time.

• Understand the tools of ancient war: weaponry, armor, technology.

• Develop understanding and empathy for the human lives affected by large-scale projects.

• Understand the process and magnitude of archaeological excavation.

• Understand the value of primary source material and its ability to reveal aspects of ancient cultures.