the terracotta army (chinese: 兵马俑; pinyin: bīng mǎ yǒng; literally "military servants") or terra-cotta warriors and horses is a collection of 8,099 life-size terra cotta figures of warriors and horses located in the mausoleum of the first qin emperor (秦始皇陵; qín shǐ huáng líng). the figures were discovered in 1974 near xi'an, shaanxi province,
the terracotta figures were buried with the first emperor of qin (qin shi huang) in 210-209 bc. consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as "qin's army."
the terracotta army of china was discovered in march 1974 by local farmers drilling a well to the east of mount li. mount li is the name of the man-made necropolis and tomb of the first emperor of qin; qin shi huang. construction of this mausoleum began in 246 b.c. and is believed to have taken 700,000 workers and craftsmen 36 years to complete. qin shi huang was interred inside the tomb complex upon his death in 210 b.c. according to the grand historian sima qian, the first emperor was buried alongside great amounts of treasure and objects of craftsmanship, as well as a scale replica of the universe complete with gemmed ceilings representing the cosmos, and flowing mercury. representing the great earthly bodies of water. recent scientific work at the site has shown high levels of mercury in the soil of mount li, tentatively indicating an accurate description of the site’s contents by sima qian.
the tomb of qin shi huang is near an earthen pyramid 76 meters tall and nearly 350 meters square. the tomb presently remains unopened. there are plans to seal-off the area around the tomb with a special tent-type structure to prevent corrosion from exposure to outside air. however, there is at present only one company in the world that makes these tents, and their largest model will not cover the site as needed.
qin shi huang’s necropolis complex was constructed to serve as an imperial compound or palace. it is comprised of several offices, halls and other structures and is surrounded by a wall with gateway entrances. the remains of the craftsmen working in the tomb may also be found within its confines, as it is believed they were sealed inside alive to keep them from divulging any secrets about its riches or entrance. it was only fitting, therefore, to have this compound protected by the massive terra cotta army interred nearby.