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Visiting the Terracotta Army: Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors & Horses Museum

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Visiting the Terracotta Army: Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors & Horses Museum

Close up of restored terracotta warriors, Terracotta Army museum, Xi'An, China

Megan Inman & Lincoln Schroth

Overview:

It has been said that going to China and not seeing the Terracotta Army is like going to Egypt and missing the Pyramids. Viewing Emperor Qin Shi Huang's terracotta army guarding his burial site and protecting his entry to the afterlife from the earthen side of a continuing archeological project is certainly one of the most memorable parts of any trip to China. The site was made a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1987.

Location:

A visit to the terracotta army is made from Xi'An (pronounced She-ahn), the capital of Shaanxi province. Xi'An lies to the southwest of Beijing. It is approximately a one-hour flight, or an overnight train ride from Beijing. Xi'An is China's first historic capital, made primary city by the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang.

The Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Wariors and Horses Museum is located about thirty minutes outside Xi'An proper by car.

History:

The terracotta army itself was discovered in 1974 when some farmers were digging a well. Their shoveling began the unearthing of a huge burial pit belonging to the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the founding Qin dynasty emperor who unified China into a central state and also laid the foundation for the Great Wall.

It is estimated that the tomb took 38 years to build, between 247 BC and 208BC, and utilized the labor of over 700,000 conscripts. The emperor died in 210 BC.

Features:

The museum site is divided into three parts where one can view the three pits where ongoing reconstruction of the army is taking place.
  • After paying entrance, you will watch a 360-degree movie about the site and how the army was discovered.
  • You'll then visit the sheds that house Pits 1-3 (named in order of discovery). Pit 1 is the largest and has had the most restoration done. It is here you can see the columns of soldiers followed by war chariots. Carry on to Pits 2 and 3.

Getting there:

  • Most visitors go on group or private tours. Group tours can be booked out of your hotel or even made from other cities, such as Beijing, or in your home country. Private Tours can be booked in the same way but will cost more. However, private tours will give you the luxury of taking your time.
  • On your own, you can take Bus #306 from the parking lot just east of the Xi'An train station. Ask your hotel for directions.

Essentials:

  • Admission fee: 90rmb (US$ 11) from Mar 1 to Nov 30, 65rmb (US$ 8) from Dec 1 - Feb 28
  • Opening hours: 8:00am to 6:00pm
  • Recommended time for visit: three hours

Tips:

  • Don't buy your copies of the terracotta warriors on the way in! You'll have to lug them around, so buy them on the way out. There will be hawkers willing to make you a good deal.
  • You can buy books about history and discovery of the terracotta army in the museum bookstore. Usually one of the farmers who was digging the well on that fateful day in 1974 is there signing books.
  • Websites quote it is not possile to take photos but we had no trouble during our visit. Just remember not to use the flash.
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