Terra Cotta Army Illustration

Terra Cotta Army
Ancient China for Kids

Can you imagine digging a well on your land one day, seeking a source of fresh water to water your crops, and discovering instead a life-sized terracotta soldier made completely out of clay? Thatís what happened to a farmer in China in 1974! At first, the farmer and the other men from his tiny village thought it was an old buried kiln they could use to cook bricks. They were very careful as they tried to dig it out because they hoped the villagers could use it. 

The villagers realized they had found something amazing when they uncovered a life-sized human face made of clay looking up at them. An archaeologist was called in to take a look. More archaeologists descended upon the site. After relocating the villagers to new homes nearby, the government of China set about uncovering these long buried artifacts.

By the time the archaeologists had finished digging, they had uncovered more than 8000 life-size terracotta soldiers! Some were kneeling with terracotta bows, ready to shoot. Some were standing. Some had terracotta moustaches. Some had terracotta (clay) armor. They also found 520 terracotta horses, 150 cavalry horses, 130 chariots along with terra cotta weapons. All were life-sized. All were made of clay. Each statue was amazingly detailed, and no two statues looked alike. It was mind boggling!

Archaeologists believe and historians agree that over 2000 years ago, in BC times in ancient China, it took approximately 720,000 (unpaid) laborers over 30 years to create this incredible grouping. King Qin took the throne in his own province when he was 13 years old. Soon after, he started workers building terra cotta warriors to be buried with him for protection when he died. Over the years, Qin accomplished quite a bit. He conquered the other six provinces of ancient China and pulled them together into one country, the country of China. He made enemies doing that. He renamed himself First Emperor Qin, and started building the Great Wall of China, which made him more enemies. First Emperor Qin was a legalist. He was harsh and cruel and the people hated him, but he got things done - some very good things and some very bad.

As time went on, Qin wanted more and more terra cotta warriors. He wanted an army buried with him, an army that would last forever, to guard him for eternity. Around 210 BC, when First Emperor Qin died, his son took over as Emperor, and saw to his father's burial. By that time, thousands of terra cotta warriors had been created.

Take a look at these amazing artifacts:

The incredible history of China's terracotta warriors (video, cartoon for kids)

Video: The Terra Cotta Warriors - Children's Museum, Indianapolis

Video, National Geographic - Terra Cotta Warriors

Video, BBC News - Terra Cotta Army

China's Terra Cotta Warriors

You can see why archaeologists were so excited by this accidental find!

What happened to the farmer? Go here to find out, from Swiss News (in English): The man who dug a well and found an army

Sites for Kids:

What is terracotta? (or terra cotta, terra-cotta) - Terra cotta means baked earth

Who was First Emperor Qin?