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6th February 2004
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 Holiday | Programmes | 50

The Terracotta Army

Best time to go: Spring (March-April) and autumn (September-October) are the best times to visit China, nights can get bitterly cold and it can be wet.

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Craig Doyle
The life-size statues that make up the Terracotta Army came in at number 45, just inside the top 50 places to see.

Located in the city of Xi'an in China is perhaps the most significant archaeological find of the 20th century. Here, the Army of Terracotta Warriors has been loyally standing guard over Emperor Qin Shi Huang's tomb for over 2000 years. He was the first Chinese Emperor.

The warriors were found in an underground vault in 1974, by peasants sinking a well. So far, thousands of the statues of warriors and horses have been unearthed, and it is thought that there may be more vaults yet to be discovered.

It is now possible for visitors to inspect the ranks of soldiers from close quarters via raised walkways.

What is astonishing about the figures is that they are life size, and incredibly life-like. Each soldier has different facial features and expressions, and are wearing knee length battle tunics.

It is believed that they were originally painted in yellows, purples and greens, although now, all that is left of the paint is traces of pigment.

The troops would also have carried real weaponry, bows, swords, crossbows and spears. The horses pulled chariots, although as they were made of wood they have largely disintegrated.

To this day it remains a mystery as to how the warriors were mass produced on such a massive scale with such excellent quality and detail. Many have replicated the figures, but apparently no one has yet managed to replicate the horses in full scale, so if you want to get a feel for the size of these statues, you will just have to go and see the real thing.

See our report from the Great Wall of China.


All prices are approximate, and provided as a guide only. Always double-check prices with individual organisations. Please note that the BBC is neither responsible for, nor endorses the external sites shown on this page.

Price: Flights about £450 to Beijing

Approx flight time: London to Beijing, about 10 hours, then a further 2 hour flight to Xi'an

  • Qin Shi Huang became a king at the age of 13 and he went on to become China's first emperor
  • Qin Shi Huang has been credited with beginning the construction of the Great Wall of China
  • it has been reported that it took 700,000 conscripts 36 years to build the army
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