What Is The Terracotta Army And Why Was It Built?

The Terracotta Army is a wide collection of several terracotta carved figures representing the military troops of Qin Shi Huang, who was the first Chinese emperor. It is described as funerary artwork buried with the emperor. The sole intention was to offer him and his tomb maximum protection after his death and as his afterlife continues in the underworld.

The well-crafted and organized figures were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong County, outside Xi’an, China. The figures vary in their height, depending on their roles. The generals were the tallest, the intermediates were slightly shorter, and the regular soldiers were much shorter heightwise, and their armor was less detailed than the rest.

If you look through the collection, you will find chariots, warriors, and horses. It includes 8,000 soldiers and about 130 chariots that have 150 Calvary horses and 520 regular horses. Other terracotta non-military figures that you may find in other pits are acrobats, musicians, acrobats, and important officials that emperor Qin valued.

That said, we will look extensively into what year the warriors were designed and built, why they were created, how they were manufactured, and how many they are.

What year were the Chinese terracotta warriors made?

The history of the Chinese Terracotta warriors’ dates to approximately 2,200 years back to the Qin Dynasty . Most historical documents identify that its construction kick-started in 246 BC. During this time, over 700,000 skilled craftsmen worked for an estimated 40 years to complete the workload.

Why were the Chinese Terracotta warriors made?

The emperor’s tomb is sealed and is quite large. Also, it remains unopened to protect the artifacts that were included in the emperor’s burial. After the archeologists excavated the site, the painted surface on some figures slowly began to fade. For this reason, the tomb remains unclosed to prevent exposure to Xi’an’s dry air that damages the wonder. There are 4 main pits located towards the east of the burial mound. If you look closely, the soldiers were laid out in such a way to protect the tomb from the east side, where most of Qin’s conquered states lay.

Based on that background, there are three reasons why the Terracotta warriors were manufactured;

  • The first one was to protect the emperor at the time, Qin Shi Huang, and his tomb. During his reign, emperor Qin killed many of his rivals and was always trying to protect him. However, he felt as though he still needed some sense of protection from his soldiers when he died. Following multiple advice sessions from his friends and colleagues, he chose to gather the skilled craftsmen in the country to start making pottery warriors that would protect him in his afterlife.
  • The second reason was to show emperor Qin’s glory in the country and the world. The first emperor of China had a great sense of pride and considered himself the greatest emperor of all time. Because he wanted to be remembered, he decided to construct the Terracotta army, which is currently a wonder in the world.
  • The third reason was that the army was to help him rule the underworld in the afterlife. Emperor Qin Shi Huang was addicted to power and wanted to prolong his reign over China. For this reason, he believed that if he built the Terracotta army, it would mean that he had a chance to rule in the afterlife and even in real life after his death.

How were the Chinese terracotta warriors made?

The terracotta warriors were handmade because during the time there weren’t any advanced tools to craft them. Over 700,000 artisans and laborers actively participated in the production and manufacture of the Qin Shihuang Tomb Complex and the Terracotta Army. Despite how many laborers there were, it took about 40 years to complete the process. Each warrior weighs about 160 kilos, and their average height is approximately 1.80 meters.

The primary material used to make the Terracotta soldiers was yellow clay. Many researchers and reports identify that all the materials used to make the army were locally sourced. The kilns for firing were distributed within a unique circle that had a radius of about 10 km. They were then crafted into separate pieces before assembly.

The main steps in the manufacture of the Terracotta soldiers were;

Step One

Obtaining the main ingredient, which is yellow clay from the inner East of China

Step Two

Crafting the different parts of the soldier’s body such as the torso, arms, head, legs, hands, and short tunic

Step Three

Assembling the essential parts

Step Four

Carving and refining the facial features and body details of the soldiers

Step Five

Air drying then firing the soldiers in a kiln

Step Six

Painting the soldiers with pigments to match the anticipated color and patterns

How many Terracotta soldiers are there?

Remember we mentioned that the Terracotta Army is a direct representation of the first emperor’s (Qin) troop formation with the soldiers and chariots arranged in a strategic manner in the pits. Officially, there are approximately 8,000 known Terracotta warriors. However, some archaeologists in China have come across over 200 others, making it the largest of its kind.

Towards the front of the formation, you will find three solid rows of crossbowmen. These were to launch a long-range attack. Right after was the main force, followed by chariots and infantry. Then, on the two sides, you will find a troop of cavalry, specially set aside to outflank the enemies. The military officers in the Terracotta army were divided into three strategic ranks based on merit, that is, junior, intermediate and high.

The junior ones possessed the regular officer crown and armor. The intermediate and high-ranking officials, on the other hand, had crows, and their armor was very different from the regular ones. The high-ranking officials were very few but easily distinguishable.


During its discovery, everyone in different parts of the world marveled at its enormous size and overall design. Based on its statistics, organization, manufacturing process, and reasons for its existence, it became the 8th wonder of the world. It acquired this title (8th wonder of the world) in 1978, when the former Prime Minister of France, Chirac recognized and praised it for its glory. In 1987, it then became a UNESCO world heritage site and an attraction site.

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