Most people know the basics around the Terracotta warriors:
They were replicas of an actual army buried with an emperor and that no two of their faces are the same. But did you know the following?
Blacksmiths used Chrome plating technology
Some of the weapons found inside the tomb are extremely well-preserved. After testing several of the weapons, scientists concluded that the surface contained a layer of Chromium, about 10 to 15 microns thick. The chromium helped preserve the luster and sharpness of the blade for 2,000 years. Chrome plating was recently invented in the 20th century, however ancient China had developed a similar technique almost 2,000 years ago!
The boots reveal the status of the man
You know what they say, it’s the shoes that make a man. And in this case, it’s really true. Depending on the angle of a statue’s boot tip, you can tell whether he was lower, middle or upper class. The lower class infantry, for example, have a flat toe, no upward angle what so ever. Archers and middle level officers on the other hand have a slight upward angle at the end of their footwear, whereas generals (pictured below) have a very pronounced, upward curved boot tip, almost like a ski jump.
A farmer found the first soldier
On March 29th, 1974, local farmer Yang Zhifa along with 5 other farmers from Xi Yang village discovered some pottery fragments of bronze weapons as they were drilling a series of wells in search of water. This lead to the excavation and subsequent discovery of the terracotta warrior army. Due to the incredible scope and value of the find, Mr. Zhifa has risen to international fame, even meeting with President Clinton in 2009. Still, things have not been all puppy dogs and rainbows for the finders and there have been a host of fakes in the area claiming to be part of the original discovery.
Thousands of warriors are still waiting to be discovered.
Archeological digging has already unearthed some two to three thousand warriors, however that’s less than a third of what they believe is still underground. It was common 2,000 years ago for leaders to be buried with earthly possessions (think ancient Egypt). Some scientists even speculate that there is a trove of Terracotta concubines awaiting discovery.
The emperor’s tomb located nearby is surrounded by a lake of mercury.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor to unify China and bring warring tribes under his steel fist. A man with such huge vision can succumb to unattainable fancies – he wanted to live forever. To accomplish this end, he started taking mercury pills. Anyone can see the irony here, what he thought would save his life, was actually its undoing and he died at the age of 50. Even so, the emperor was buried along with his favorite medicine. Since he would be living in his palace tomb for eternity, he needed a lot of it – according to ancient text, a whole river of it. Scientists have confirmed high traces of mercury in the soil, so it seems the text is telling the truth.
How much does it cost, how to get there, and some practical tips:
The entrance fee for the Terracotta Warriors is 150 Yuan or 75 for students. You can take a special Teracotta Warriors minibus leaving from the main train station for 8 Yuan or bus 306 (also 8 Yuan). Most people prefer to hit Pit 1 last, as it is the most impressive. You can start with Pit 2 to see five statues up close that are encased in glass. This is also where they display the first warrior discovered, an archer. In the actual pit you will only see body parts strewn about. Then move on to Pit 3, where you can see 72 warriors that are mostly intact. You saved the best for last, now go see pit 1 which contains 2,000 warriors. The emperor’s tomb is a short bus ride away. Be warned though, it is only a pushed up mound of earth. It looks like any hill you would see in China. You can skip the tomb if you are in a time crunch, along with the poorly produced video on the emperor’s rise and entombment that you will find in the gift shop.
What did you think? Do you know any other unusual facts about the Terracotta Warriors? If so, let me know in the comments below.
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