The discovery of the army of terracotta of Xian

Some of the protagonists of the find, already pensioners, comment on it today

Warriors of terracotta of Xian
Photo: Wikipedia

From the exhibition of 2004 in Madrid we have spoken several times of the famous soldiers of terracotta who keep the grave of the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, close to Xian. But we had never told either how the discovery was, or what persons intervened in him.

In March, 1974 there was drought in the Chinese Shaanxi province. A few peasants were digging a well to obtain water and to put in irrigation a few fields nearby to the people of Xiyang, to approximately 35 km from the ancient capital Xian.

One of them, called Yang Zhifa, explains so that they found:

“1974 was one very dry year and the grain was dying in the fields. The leaders of our village decided to dig a well, therefore we look for a deep place and begin digging.

We think that the reddish ground was very hard at about a meter deep. To the third day, I extracted something similar to a vessel. In fact, it was the head of a warrior of terracotta, but he did not know it in this moment.

Another neighbor said to me that it should excavate carefully so that it could take to house the 'vessel' to use it as a receptacle.

Then, we excavate and extract the body, which was like a statue of those who exist in the temples”.

Warriors of terracotta of Xian
Photo: Wikipedia

Yang did not see the terracotta warriors again during the following twenty years, until they called him of the shop of the Warriors' Museum and Horses of Terracotta and proposed to him to sign books to the tourists. Then it left his farmer's work and today, with 72 years, from 9 to 5 works for a thousand salary yuanes, approximately 147 dollars to the month, like one more attraction of the museum, proclaimed by the tourist guides: "East is mister Yang Zhifa, the first one that it discovered the terracotta warriors!”.

“I am tired of signing and of noisy tourists, and hate the sensationalist reporters”, says Yang.

Warriors of terracotta of Xian
Workshop where there are made replies of all the sizes for the tourists. Photos: Remko Tanis

Another three farmers who were between those who were digging the well 35 years ago, presented in 2003 a request so that the museum was expressing a certificate confirming them like the discoverers of the army of terracotta: "The museum only says in the introduction that the warriors and horses of terracotta were discovered by the local farmers on having dug a well. Our names must join”, they tell.

Another key figure is that of Zhao Kangmin, which was the first one in understanding the importance of the discovery and the real value of the opposing pieces. Also it was the first one in reconstructing some of the figures. Today to 74 years it is retired of his healer's charge of the museum of Lintong. “What the farmers want is a money”, he says, “to See does not mean to discover. The farmers saw the terracotta fragments, but they did not know that there were archaeological pieces, they even broke them. It was me who avoided the damage, he gathered the pieces and the first terracotta warrior reconstructed.”

Warriors of terracotta of Xian

Zhao was the official responsible for the cultural relics when he found out that there had appeared a big number of fragments of terracotta. It ran to the place and remained astonished on having seen pieces of heads, bodies, arms and legs. He asked the farmers to gather them, loaded them in three trucks and took them to the Lintong museum.

It began the work of reconstruction of the statues, from thousands of pieces, someone so small as a finger. While it was carrying out this task, a journalist of the agency Xinhua realized a reportage that attracted attention on the authorities, which sent an archaeological team to the place.

Warriors of terracotta of Xian
Photo: Postal exhibition Warriors of Xian (Madrid, 2004)

When the archaeologist Yuan Zhongyi was sent to Lintong, he could not suspect that it would spend there the following thirty years of his life. His chief had said to him that of course the work would not last any more than one week.

Yuan, of 77 years, lives through retired person of his healer's charge of the Warriors' Museum and Horses of Terracotta.

“First we excavate about the area that the farmers had perforated and think that the place with remains was much major than the awaited thing. We take half a year in locating the limits of the place, which was extending 14 square km. According to this, we think that there would be approximately 6.000 warriors buried in the pit. We were very moved because a funeral pit like that had never been in the whole world.”

The second pit that was age of minor size, half of the first one, but his statues, polychrome, they were in the better conservation state.

To protect the environment in the whole area that makes a detour to the mausoleum of Qin Shihuang, nearly 500 persons were moved, between 2003 and 2005, from his houses to a new village.

Seven families of the village have their own factories and stores of production and sale of warriors' replies and terracotta horses and another 38 families have opened restaurants and hotels of rural tourism. About half of the villagers sells memories.

There is a popular saying between the inhabitants of the area: "You do not forget that the Communist Party brought to us the freedom. Do not forget that Qin Shi Huang made us prosperous”.

Warriors of terracotta of Xian
Photo: Catalog of the exhibition Warriors of Xian (Madrid, 2004)

Warriors of terracotta of Xian
Photo: Catalog of the exhibition Warriors of Xian (Madrid, 2004)

There exists the belief of which the first Chinese emperor buried with him his fabulous treasure. Now four years ago they were detected, by means of magnetic prospect, you coin under the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, which might belong to the treasure, but the experts do not want to excavate because, with the current skills, they do not guarantee the integrity of the pieces.

The last find, bulletin a few days ago, consists of the appearance of some warriors' statues without beard, which is supposed they represent young people of approximately 17 years, minimal age to be recruited. In the ancient China all the men were taking beard and it was a sign of identity of such a category, which one of the condemnations that sometimes was applied to the delinquents was to be shaved.

Warriors of terracotta of Xian
Photo: Wikipedia

I am going to remind to them some of the anecdotes on that we have already commented in the blog on the warriors.

A Norwegian sculptress called Marian Heyerdahl, daughter of the famous traveler Thor Heyerdahl, has made a feminine army following the esthetics of the masculine original created by the first emperor.

A German student had the occurrence of disguising itself as terracotta warrior and posing immobile next to the statues. It remained several minutes confused with the authentic warriors before being detected by the police.

It is prohibited for the visitors to touch the terracotta statues, but it is allowed to the blind persons to feel some figures.

Some soldiers' statuettes have found to some kilometers of the grave of the emperor in miniature (of approximately 10 cm) that might have served as model for the manufacture of the statues of terracotta.

In the third delivery of the series of full-lenght films The Mummy, the terracotta warriors come alive, get up of his graves and continue to the mummy of Qin Shi Huang. The movie is very bad.

Warriors of terracotta of Xian


Category: Archaeology, Art, China


To send Buzz Wikio
On Monday, the 26th October, 2009

3 comments to “The discovery of the army of terracotta of Xian

  1. anarkasis on On Tuesday, the 27th October, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Chinese work

  2. brujodoncarlos on On Tuesday, the 10th November, 2009 at 1:06 am

    And small stones (in the shoes)

  3. alex on On Saturday, the 21st November, 2009 at 1:04 am

    interesting the most wonderful q and I dress

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