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

The Terracotta Horses

Written by Fercility JiangUpdated Jan. 17, 2021
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

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.

Click to Sign up

Why China Highlights

Customize Your Tour

Customize Your Tour

  • Travel Advisors Rooted in China
  • Instant Response, No More Waits!
  • Direct Connections, Supreme Values
Maximize Your Flexibility

Maximize Your Flexibility

  • Your own personal guide and ride.
  • Explore at your own pace.
  • Unparalleled flexibility, impossible on a group tour.
Ensure Your Satisfaction

Ensure Your Satisfaction

  • The Top 20% nationwide guides at your service.
  • 20% more space on your group's transportation.
  • 24/7 emergency support.
Live Your China Story

Live Your China Story

  • Authentic local culture and lifestyles.
  • Understand the culture by living it.
  • Uncover fascinating histories and witness New China.
Rated 5 out of 5 | 98.8% Excellence
China Highlights International
Travel Service Co., LTD
Featured on
China Highlights was featured on these medias.

Address: Building 6, Chuangyi Business Park, 70 Qilidian Road, Guilin, Guangxi, 541004, China