Often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world the Terra-Cotta Army, dating back to 210 BC was built to help the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang rule in the afterlife.
It is estimated that more then 700,000 laborers and craftsmen manufactured the estimated 9,000 soldiers, chariots and horses.
So far 3 main pits have been discovered; Pit 1 and the largest, the top 2 images above, contains the main army; Pit 2 the next largest and the image above contained specialized troops such as archers.
Pit 3 , the smallest of the three was the troop command center.
The army was discovered by some local farmers digging for water back in 1974 when they came across some pottery pieces, the rest is history. For a donation you can get a founding farmer to, (get it, founding farmer, just made that up right now), sign your Terra-Cotta Army book and then they will allow you to take their picture as well, one of the farmers is signing my book in the image above, very cool.
Before the Terra-Cotta Army there was a small village and Pomegranate growing fields. The villagers have all been relocated and a small tourist town now occupies the land.
The museum is just outside of Xi'an (pronounced she anne) China and receives 2 million tourists and visitors annually, the Queen Of England, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and me to name a few.
Our tour guide told us a couple interesting tidbits of info, a local person dressed up like a warrior and hid down amongst the figures, he managed to pull it off for quite awhile until someone saw him move and he was arrested, also apparently they had put a halt to the excavating because the warriors after being restored were losing their color, they have now figured out how to prevent that from happening and had just started to excavate a month before I arrived.
Besides soldiers, chariots and horses a large assortment of real armor, weapons, rare animal and bird figures and various types of pottery have been uncovered, as well as mass burial graves.
To keep the tomb a secret hundreds of officials and craftsmen involved in it's construction were buried alive with the dead Emperor. Just to the southwest of the mausoleum 42 mass graves have been uncovered, a lot of good the burying alive thing did, just 5 years after the Emperor's death General Xiang and his army looted and burned the Emperor's tomb destroying the Terra-Cotta Army.
The figures were created using molds and local clay heated to between 950 and 1050 degrees Celsius. The heads were made with 2 piece molds with the eyes, ears, mouth and hair added after to give each warrior their own individual look, actually there are some experts that say that real soldiers were used as models. I was so fascinated with that idea that I took a bunch of images using my telephoto lens, and they are all different, at least the images I collected, just think, when you are looking at the images below you could be looking into the face of someone that was an actual warrior back in the day!
I'll leave you with a video I took of the unforgettable event, notice at the beginning of the video I was told no pictures, still you can see the farmer signing some books before I turned off the camera, once inside the pits I was allowed to image again, but boy was it packed, had to push and shove my way into the front area, you can see where I almost lost my footing on a slope, all the area I could find to take pictures at the time, was also very hot, reached 40 c that day and wasn't much cooler in the building, very humid, you could smell the clay, added to the whole adventure.
Also look to the North East after darkness falls tonight , just under the W of Cassiopeia for the peak of the Perseid Meteor shower, could see as high as 40 meteors an hour, I'll be out trying to image them, should be a fairly good show.