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Terracotta Warriors

Last updated: 18 March, 2024

One of China’s most awe-inspiring archaeological sites and tourism attractions, the incredibly life-like terracotta warriors (and military horses) were commissioned in the 3rd century BC by Emperor Qin Shihuang to guard his monumental underground mausoleum on the advent of his death.

First unearthed by accident near Xi’an in 1974, to date more than 6,000 life-size warriors have been found – each unique – with an estimated 2,000 more yet to be excavated. The thousands of life-sized warriors are set in infantry formation in three vast covered pits.

Logistics

Price from: £17
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Visitors to Xi’an usually arrive by air, with several daily flights from Beijing (2 hours), Shanghai (2.5 hours) and Hong Kong (2.5 hours). A taxi to downtown from the airport takes around 40 minutes. The Terracotta Warriors are a further 40-minute taxi ride from the centre.

There is very little signage in English, so guides are invaluable. Most people visit with tour groups or private guides (usually available at the entrance). It’s also possible to rent audio guides at the entrance.

The centrepiece of the museum is the 3 large pits, displaying the excavated warriors and horses, contained within large hangers, and a Bronze Chariot Exhibition. Start with Pitt 1, then 3, then 2, ending at the Bronze Chariot Exhibition to best follow the story. Allow 2 to 3 hours.

Work has recently started on excavating the actual Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang at a site 1.5kms away. You can jump on a shuttle bus (10 mins) but at time of writing, there is not a lot to see.

When to do it

The exhibit is open all year round, seven days a week. The warriors are housed in large, temperature-controlled hangars covering the pits, so the weather is not a consideration when visiting. However, Xi’an itself gets very cold from December to March. Weekends and Chinese public holidays can get extremely crowded, so avoid if possible.