It was an early spring day in 1974 in northern China when three farmers made an incredible discovery of what’s known as China’s Silent Army. While digging for a well near a grove of persimmon trees, one of the farmers feels his shovel strike something hard. Could it be a rock or perhaps a pot or a vase made of clay? Carefully, these three men keep digging and what slowly reveals itself to them is a “pottery man” staring back at them, open-eyed and very real looking! The three men report what they have found to the local authorities and archaeologists arrive to make an amazing discovery that is now known as the Terracotta Warriors or The Emperor’s Silent Army.
Emperor Qin Shihuang (259 to 210 B.C.) had built a fierce army said to be a million strong. In his quest for immortality, in all respects except for number, the terracotta army is a life-size replica of the real army. Facial details, hairstyles, suits of armor all depict details of the soldiers and officers. No two faces are the same. The terracotta horses are Mongolian ponies, muscular and powerful.
Qin Shihuang built four thousand miles of roads that connected his huge empire. He decreed that there would be just one language, one currency and one system of weights and measures. Qin Shihuang was a tyrant and one of the most despised rulers in China’s history. In order to protect his empire from barbarian tribes, he built the first Great Wall of China. That’s right, this same Emperor not only had built an entire army of terracotta soldiers to protect him in his afterlife, he also had a workforce of half a million slave laborers, over twelve years, during his reign, build the Great Wall. To this day, it still remains the longest man-made structure in the world.
For centuries, the world forgot about the buried clay soldiers…until 1974. Now, every year, more than two million visitors from all around the world come to his burial site to see his army. In November 2014, I traveled to Xi’an, China to see 8,000 terracotta troops sculptures. It was a fascinating and awe-inspiring experience and one I highly recommend. I guess the Emperor’s immortality will live on, just as he had planned.