The Emperor’s Guards: China’s Terracotta Army

Jocelyn Murray October 29, 2011 No Comments



Terracotta Warriors

Thousands of terracotta figures were found, many still buried in the pits where they were discovered

In 1974 farmers in China unearthed a stunning necropolis built for Qin Shihuangdi, China’s first emperor after its unification dating back to the early 200s BC. This mausoleum was guarded by an army of life-size warriors meant to defend the emperor in the afterlife.


kneeling archer

The life-size figures are beautiful (courtesy of Bowers Museum)

Thousands of terracotta figures of various ranks were found, all intricately constructed with facial features, uniforms, hairstyles and heights. Although the original vibrant pigments have faded and most of the weapons looted, this army still retains an awesome presence, impressive in its craftsmanship and historical significance.


Included in this extraordinary find are the warriors, horses, chariots and non-military figures, most of which remain buried in situ in the pits where they were discovered.



This exquisite reliquary is among the artifacts displayed at the Bowers Museum (courtesy of Bowers Museum)

Some of the weapons held by this army and found in the excavations include swords, shields, crossbows, arrowheads, spears, battle-axes and scimitars, many of which have remained sharp and rust-free for over two millennia due to a protective coat of chromium oxide.



Special Exhibit at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California

Some of these amazing treasures are now on display at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, along with other splendid artifacts from the Han and Tang dynasties in a special exhibit titled Warriors, Tombs and Temples: China’s Enduring Legacy, and can be viewed until March 4, 2012.

figure of groom

Earthenware figure from the Tang Dynasty (courtesy of Bowers Museum)

See some of these famous life-size warriors from the Qin Dynasty, as well as stunning relics from the tombs of the Tang Dynasty and the Han emperors including the smaller smiling terra cotta warriors, animals and other objects and ornaments.


This is a fantastic opportunity for families to glimpse this historical treasure and learn about history, even drawing parallels to the great Egyptian artifacts and tombs. Children have often been fascinated by toy soldiers, and this is a chance for them to see soldiers in various sizes that were constructed as guardians to emperors. It also provides them with inspiration to build and make their own creations with clay – something many children enjoy immensely. What better place to learn about history, human innovation, and the creative mind than coming face to face with the past. The Bowers Museum provides this exceptional lifetime opportunity.


Audio podcast tours are available for download to mobile devices. For more information about the exhibit visit


avatarAbout the Author:

Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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