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The Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an
Emperor Qin Shi Huang's tomb surpasses the famed burial sites of Egypt in many ways. Do you know about a pharaoh who has a pyramid with over 8,000 warriors standing guard over his riches? Even though made of baked clay, the terracotta warriors of Xi'an continue to inspire awe over 2,000 years later.

Xi'an, located in Shan'Xi Province and famous as the starting point of the Silk Road, the trading route used by travelers from many parts of the world for centuries, was the provincial capital for over 1,000 years. But today, most come for the view of the emperor's tomb and its contents.

The construction project spanned 35 years and employed hundreds of thousands of workers, many of whose remains are entombed there as well. Completed around 210 BC at the death of the emperor and discovered accidentally in 1974 by local fishermen digging a well, the tomb in Xi'an is now one of the world's foremost archaeological sites. Not ancient compared to the pyramids of Egypt, Xi'an, thanks to the tomb, has now grown to one of the premier tourist destinations in China.

Sometimes known as Qin's Army, the material for the six-foot statues was dug from the surrounding hills. Six feet may not seem tall, but to an individual in China 2,000 years ago, they would have been intimidatingly large.

Three separate areas were found. Some terracotta warriors are astride horses, others ride chariots and many stand aligned in rows. The smaller pit measures 64,500 square feet and contains 1,400 features. But the larger area is truly immense with 6,000 terracotta warriors covering over 172,000 square feet. The third area holds the officer ranks with a chariot drawn by four enormous horses. A fourth area devoid of figures has also been found.

If you thought these statues were all duplicates, you're wrong. Figures vary in appearance, uniform and height, and carry real weapons of the period. Though now largely worn off, they were painted with colorful lacquer both to individualize and to preserve.

Beyond the warriors, and the horses on which many of them sat, pearls and gems studded the ceiling as a recreation of heaven. Even a 76 m (250 ft) high earthen pyramid is nearby. Hallways, offices and other architectural features have been excavated, forming a site that was clearly much more than a tomb.

Like most ancient burial grounds, the area has been subject to fire, looting and the decay of centuries. But thanks in large part to restoration efforts, the tomb can be seen much as it must have been at the time. Minus the jewels, sad to say.

No visit to China is complete without a day spent exploring this magnificent archaeological site.
About the Author
This article is brought to you by John Riley, a regular China visitor. If you're looking for more China travel tips feel free to visit John's website at Celestial China.
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