Five things you may not have known about the Terracotta warriors (Travel Landmark of the Week)

Five things you may not have known about the Terracotta warriors (Travel Landmark of the Week)

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!

Terracotta warrior's weapons were chrome platted

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.

Terracotta warrior's boots reveal status of the warrior

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.

Terracotta warriors little known facts

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.

Thousands of terracotta warriors are still waiting to be discovered

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.

Emperors tomb is surrounded by a lake of mercury

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.

Pit one of the terracotta warriors
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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Posted on

December 23, 2014