It is early spring in 1974, and several peasants have gathered near the northern foot of Mt. Lishan in Lintong County to dig a well. Imagine their surprise when, piece by broken piece, several ancient weapons and life-sized statue parts begin emerging from the ground. These humble peasants could never have foreseen that this discovery would become one of the greatest archaeological excavations of all time, and would make Xian famous for years to come.
In 246 BC, Qin Shi Huang ascended to the throne at the astonishingly young age of 13, and later became the first Emperor of China in 221 BC. He immediately began working on his future mausoleum, which took 11 years and the painstaking efforts of 700,000 diligent laborers to complete. In total, over 8,000 pottery soldiers, chariots, horsemen, warriors, and weapons would ultimately be buried with Qin Shi Huang to accompany and defend him in his afterlife.
The rediscovery of this amazing funerary art in 1974 immediately caught the attention of a variety of archeologists, scientists and historians. By 1975, the State Council authorized the building of a museum on this sacred site. The restoration of the Terra Cotta Warriors—as the pottery figures have come to be known—continues to this day. The Museum of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses covers 16,300 square meters, and is comprised of three pits. In 1987, UNESCO added this site just outside of Xian to its list of world cultural heritage sites.
Xian, called Chang'an by the Chinese, literally means “eternal city”. This is a very befitting name for one of the birthplaces of ancient Chinese civilization. People have inhabited Xian for 3,100 years, and with its present population of over 4 million residents, Xian continues to thrive today.
The slideshow below illustrates some of the grand sites, festivities, history, and culture of the Eternal City. All photos taken by K. Buchholtz.
For more information: Xian basics, Xian Jade Carving Factory, Xian City Wall