Top 10 China tours 2024/2025 for first visits and returns: embark on a lifetime experience. Learn more
The Terracotta Horses

The Terracotta Horses

Written by Fercility JiangUpdated Nov. 21, 2023
Terracotta Horses

In ancient China, before the advent of mechanical power, there was no advanced transportation. The speed and endurance of horses made them a rare resource for getting around.

Horses were also indispensable in warfare, hunting, and the aristocratic pastime of polo. In ancient China, a horse and cart was equivalent to today's luxury car.

The Terracotta Horses in the Terracotta Army

Horses have close relationships with humans. They help a lot in life and war, so horses took the fancy of people in ancient China.

Terracotta Warrior and Horse

During the Shang (1600-1046 BC) and Zhou (1045-221 BC) dynasties, horses were buried alive in the tombs of emperors, the noble and the wealthy.

The Qin Shihuang Mausoleum followed this burial tradition, but replaced live horses with clay figurines. Emperor Qin Shihuang hoped that his great terracotta army would protect him in the afterlife. Read more on Chinese Death Culture.

About 600 terracotta horses have been excavated as part of the Terracotta Army. These horse statues were modeled on the domesticated war-horse. They are life-sized: about 1.7 meters (5.6 feet) in height and 2 meters (6.7 feet) in length.

The terracotta horses belonged to the cavalry. Some were allocated to cavalry soldiers, while others pulled the chariots.

Recommended Tours:

The Manufacture of Terracotta Horses

The manufacturing process for terracotta horses was the same as for terracotta warriors. The main constituent of the horses was clay.

The horses' heads, trunks and legs were firstly molded separately, and then assembled together with a film of clay.

Next, craftsmen carved the details, such as knotted saddlecloths, bells, manes and forelocks. Afterwards, the pieces were put into the kiln and fired. The final step was painting. See How the Terracotta Army Was Made.

Bronze Horses

Bronze Horses in the Terracotta Army

The two elaborately restored bronze carriages displayed in the exhibition hall were discovered in 1980, 20 meters west of the Tomb of Qin Shihuang.There are other horse statues in the Terracotta Army - bronze horses pulling the chariots. Bronze horses were rare, since bronze itself was rare and needed for weaponry, so craftsmen mostly used terracotta statues instead.

The bronze horses are between 65 and 67 cm tall, and 120 cm long. Each weighs around 1,234 kg.

Recommended Tours:

Tour the Terracotta Army with China Highlights

Terracotta Army Tour

Below are our two most popular tours involving the Terracotta Army:The Terracotta Warriors and Horses are rich in history and culture. You are recommended to see them with a knowledgeable guide, who can share background information with you and help avoid the crowds.

Further Reading

Popular tours
Make the most of your time
Choose the best time to visit
We are here to help you...
start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

Sign up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to receive exciting updates, exclusive promotions, and valuable travel tips from our team of experts.

The China Highlights Experience

1-to-1 Expert Planning

1-to-1 Expert Planning

Your tour will be tailor-made by your personal travel advisor — a destination expert. Every reply will be within 24 hours.

Personal Journeys

Personal Journeys

Enjoy your personal local guide and ride. Explore destinations at your own pace. Have unparalleled flexibility, which is impossible on a group tour.

Authentic Experiences

Authentic Experiences

Discover the hidden gems. Experience local culture by practicing it. Try new and exciting activities, and unveil the stories behind the sights and people.

Well-Selected Local Guides

Well-Selected Local Guides

Knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and attentive — your personal local guides will share interesting stories, insider information, and even create unexpected highlights!

China Highlights tailor-makes China tours to help travelers discover China their way. We're a passionate team of one hundred avid travelers who love to share our knowledge of China with those looking for a more authentic travel experience, more ...
China Highlights International Travel Service Co., LTD
Corporate Number: 914503003486045699
Featured on