The 1974 discovery of thousands of life-sized Terracotta Warriors near Xian was one of the archeological sensations of the 20th century. The figures date from 210 BC and were meant to guard the first emperor of China in the afterlife. Today the UNESCO-listed Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor ranks among China’s top attractions.
A huge statue of the emperor now guards the entrance to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, where three enormous pits are filled with row upon row of these remarkable effigies—the first pit alone holds some 6,000 examples in excellent condition.
The museum and excavation site is by far the most popular day trip from Xian, and options are plentiful. Choose between a full or half-day tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site with a small group or your own private English-speaking tour guide. Some day tours also include visits to the Hanyang Mausoleum, Muslim Quarter, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, City Wall, or a Tang Dynasty show and dumpling banquet. If you’re on a tight schedule in China, you can even see the terracotta army on a day trip by air from Shanghai.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum is a must-see for history lovers and first-time visitors.
- Allow two to three hours to visit the site fully.
- The museum is accessible to wheelchairs.
- Photography is allowed in the museum, but flashes and tripods are prohibited.
- Many Xian tours to the museum include hotel pickup and drop-off.
How to Get There
The Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum is northwest of Xian, near the community of Lintong. The No. 5 tourist bus takes you there from the Xian train station, or you can catch public bus No. 306 from East Square.
When to Get There
The Terracotta Warriors are one of China’s most-visited attractions; to avoid the worst crowds, plan to visit on a weekday first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon, after the bus tour groups have left. Since the excavation pits are indoors, weather isn’t a factor—but the pits can be freezing cold in winter.
Xian Terracotta Warriors by the Numbers
Since their discovery in 1974, more than 8,000 soldiers, 670 horses, and 130 chariots have been unearthed. Each warrior is unique, with distinct facial features and heights, though the average height is 6 feet (1.85 meters). It took an estimated 40 years for some 700,000 laborers to complete the army.