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The Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army is one of the top attractions in China. It is significant because the hundreds of detailed life-size models represent the army that triumphed over all other Chinese armies and who were the decisive factor in forming a united China 2,200 years ago.

It is considered one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, and one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. In 1987 the Tomb of the First Emperor, including the Terracotta Army, became World Cultural Heritage.

Quick Facts

  • Attraction name:The Qin Tomb Terracotta Warriors and Horses
  • Chinese: 秦陵兵马俑 Qínlíng Bīngmǎyǒng /chin-ling bing-maa-yong/
  • Features:hundreds of life-size model soldiers, horses, and chariots in battle array
  • Construction: 246–206 BC. With the tomb of Emperor Qin Shihuang it took 720,000 builders. 
  • Time needed:half a day
  • Suited for:history and Chinese culture enthusiasts
  • Physical requirements:low (indoor sightseeing); wheelchair-accessible lifts and corridors are provided

More Terracotta Army Facts>>

Why Were the Terracotta Warriors Made?

xian the terracotta warriors and horses

First Emperor Qin (/chin/), from whom China gets its name, ordered the creation of this army of terracotta statues. It was made to be buried with him, it is said:

  • as a show of his glory,
  • to remember the army that triumphed over the other Warring States to unite China, and
  • because it was believed that objects like statues can be animated in the afterlife, and Qin Shihuang required an after-death army. 

Major Attractions inside the Museum

The museum mainly consists of three vaults and an exhibition hall: Vault One, Vault Two, Vault Three, and The Exhibition Hall of the Bronze Chariots.

The vaults are arrayed as the buried army was in strict accordance with the ancient directives on the Art of War: facing east towards the ancient enemies of Qin State (and towards the entrance, see plan view), with Vault One on the right flank, Vault Two on the left flank, and Vault Three a command post at the rear.

Terracotta Army Museum Map

Vault One

xian the terra-cotta warriors and horses Vault One

Vault One is the largest and most impressive — the size of an airplane hangar. It is believed to contain over 6,000 terracotta figures of soldiers and horses, but less than 2,000 are on display. All the most impressive Terracotta Army pictures were taken in Vault One.

Every figure differs in facial features and expression, clothing, hairstyle, and gestures, providing abundant and detailed artifacts for the study of the military, cultural, and economic history of that period.

Vaults Two and Three

Excavation and restoration is still ongoing at vaults two and three. They look quite plain after you have visited pit one, though some say Vault Two is the highlight of the mausoleum. 

Pit three, Terracotta Army Vault Three

Vault Two features four intriguing and rigorous battle formations: rows of kneeling and standing archers; a chariot war array; a chariot, cavalry, and infantry array; and a cavalry division holding various weapons. The four units form a rigorous battle array.

Vault Three is the smallest one. There are only 68 terracotta figures, many of which are without heads. It's obvious that Vault Three represents the command post, as all the figures are officials. 

The Exhibition of Bronze Chariots

The two bronze carriages displayed in the hall were discovered 20 meters from the west side of the Tomb of Qin Shihuang in December 1980, and were elaborately restored before exhibition.

Exhibition of Bronze Chariots The Exhibition of Bronze Chariots

The carriages have about 3,400 parts each and were driven by four horses. Each weighs 1,234 kg in total. They were mainly made of bronze, but there were 1,720 pieces of golden and silver ornaments, weighting 7 kg, on each carriage.

Facilities in the Museum

Restaurants

There are many tourist restaurants around the museum, but lower your expectations on taste and quality. Some even may rip you off. Our guide will choose the best available restaurant for our customers.

Toilets

There are toilets inside and outside the museum grounds. They are all Chinese-style squat toilets. Bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The on-site toilets are free, and those outside charge 1 yuan.

Shops

When you finishing your visit, you have to pass an area with a lot of souvenir shops. We don't recommend our customers buy gifts there, as they may be over-priced. A better place to buy souvenirs is the market in Xi'an.

Avoid the scams. For example, don't buy the book signed by the famer who claims to be one of the discovers of the Terracotta Army. They are all fake. Many play that role to rip off travelers. The book is very expensive 180–200 yuan: (29–32 USD). Museum guides may recommend it to you!

Travel Essentials

  • Location: 30 kilometers east of Xi'an in Lintong District.
  • Opening hours: 8:30am–5:30pm; –5pm off-peak
  • Entry:90 yuan (March 1 – November 30); otherwise 65 yuan. Children under 1.2m: free of charge.
  • Restrictions: Armed guards at the gate check for dangerous articles. No flash photography inside.
  • Ideal route: the Exhibition Hall of the Qin Bronze Chariots, the three vaults, and then the Round Curtain Movie (if time).

Avoiding the Crowds

Terracotta Army details

The park is very crowded during peak travel season from May to October. Expect large crowds. We usually suggest our customers avoid China's main holidays: Spring Festival (January/February), National Day (October 1–7), and Labor Day (May 1–3).

Getting there earlier than the tourist groups will save you a lot time on waiting. The park opens at 8:30. Our guide will tell you the best time to depart from your hotel.
Weekends are often more crowded than weekdays.

A Guide Is Needed

There is very little (good English) signage, so a guide is definitely needed to explain the exhibits, and help you get the most out of a visit.

Museum guides offer their services at the entrance. They will swarm around you while you are buying your ticket. Please be discerning if you use one, as some try to force tourists to buy something at souvenir shops. Some travelers have reported their disappointing experiences with hired guides on TripAdvisor. 

There are audio guides for rent (40 yuan, deposit 200 yuan), but we don't recommend it as the English is difficult to understand.

How to Get There

Terracotta Army map

The Terracotta Army is about one hours' drive from the city, 2 km east of The Tomb of Qin Shihuang. Don't go to the Tomb of Qin Shihuang as it is only a mound. It's not excavated yet, so there's not much to see.

Private Tour Recommended

The most convenient way is take a private tour. Your guide and driver will pick you up at your hotel and accompany you to the Terracotta Army.

Your guide will help you buy tickets, saving you a lot of time and trouble lining up. With our guide you will have the flexibility to decide how much time you spend at each exhibit.

Taking a Tourist Bus

  • Tourist bus 5 (306 displayed) departs from Xi'an Railway Station. The bus stops at several attractions along the way, and the Terracotta Army is the last station. No English is spoken by the driver.
  • Operates: 07:00–19:00
  • Journey: 42 km (26 mi), 1 hour, 12 stops

Avoid fake tourist buses:The right one is a grey coach with 45 seats and ticket purchase from a conductor on boarding. The typical fake tourist bus is light yellow (maybe with游5 displayed) with 20 seats and a ticket window. The operators waste your time with tourist trap visits, where you are also encouraged to waste your money.

Taking a Taxi

Taking a taxi is not recommended. Some taxi drivers may not take you to the Terracotta Army directly, stopping at tourist shops instead, or they may rip you off.  The correct price is about 300–400 yuan (48–65 USD).

Some city taxi drivers may insist on taking you to the Terracotta Army, even if you've clearly said you want to go somewhere else! If you refuse, they may not take you where you want to go either.

From the Entrance to the Museum

The parking lot is about 1 km from the entrance. There are buses running from the parking lot to the entrance, but, as you need to queue for them (in the busy travel season from May to October), we recommend you walk the 15 minutes or so there if you are in good shape. Our guide will accompany you on the walk if you don't want to line up for the bus.

Is it possible to have a day tour from Beijing to see the Terracotta Army in Xi'an? 

Terracotta Army infographic

Xi'an is about a 2-hour flight or an overnight train ride from Beijing. A day tour from Beijing to see the Terracotta Army is possible, but very rushed. It takes 2–3 hours for a round trip from Xi'an airport to the Terracotta Army.

With a Beijing return flight and airport transport, the total traveling time will be around 9 hours! Itinerary: early start, afternoon Terracotta Army Visit, late return to Beijing.

We suggest you to take a night train from Beijing to Xi'an and fly back. You will have a more relaxing day and plenty of time to see the Terracotta Army this way. Train Z19 arrives in Xi'an at 08:00, and four T-trains arrive between 06:32 and 08:34.

Our travel advisors can help you arrange a Terracotta Army day tour from Beijing, and give you suggestions according your requirements. Contact us.

Our main Xi'an tours all include a flexible, private Terracotta Army tour, and can be tailor-made to suit you.