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History of the Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army has a history of 2,200 years, dating back to the Qin dynasty. Emperor Qin first commanded its construction in 246 BC, when he was crowned king, aiming to protect his power after death. It was finished in 208 BC, 2 years after he died.

Over the years, the Terracotta Army suffered natural disasters, corrosion, weathering and man-made damage, until it was accidentally discovered. Archaeological teams protected the land and continued to excavate and research its cultural significance.


  • 246 BC: Construction began beside Emperor Qin’s tomb
  • 210 BC: Emperor Qin died
  • 208 BC: Construction finished, taking nearly 40 years
  • Around 206 BC: Natural flood. Deliberate destruction by Xiang Yu
  • 1974: First discovered pit 1
  • 1976: Pits 2 and 3 were discovered
  • 1979: Pit 1 was opened to the public
  • 1987: Pit 3 was opened to the public. The Terracotta Army and Tomb of Emperor Qin were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage, as well as labeled the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.
  • 1994: Pit 2 was opened to the public
  • 2009: The third excavation of pit 1 began
  • 2011: Three auxiliary museums were opened to the public

the history of Terracotta Army

How the Terracotta Army Was Discovered

The Terracotta Army was first discovered in March 1974 by five local farmers. They were digging a well when they excavated a life-sized terracotta warrior. They continued to find other things, like bronze arrows and crossbow, before breaking into a pit (pit 1) containing 6,000 terracotta warriors. Pit 1 was opened to the public on Chinese National Day 1979.

After discovering pit 1, archaeologists began to research and protect the site, as well as finding other relics. In 1976, pit 2 was excavated with 1,000 warriors in the chariot cavalry corps, and unveiled to the public in 1994. Pit 3 was found in 1976 and opened to visitors in 1987. In December 1987, the site was listed as a world cultural site.

You will go to see a short movie about how Terracotta Warriors discovered before visit the vaults of Terracotta Warriors and Horses.

Popular the Terracotta Army Trips

Want to get know the history of China? Go to Xi'an. Want to get know about Xi'an? Not not miss Terracotta Army! Plesee see our more popular trips to explore this ancient wonder:

We have developed some special activities in Xi'an, including to discover a mysterious place to have a close experience with a Terracotta Warrior. Contact us if you want to add these activities to your itinerary.

Terracotta Army Tour with Beijing and Shanghai