The central region of Shaanxi was not always the most well-traveled. The capital city Xi'an was semi-popular, but despite being one of the oldest settled regions in the country, Shaanxi was for years best known as the area that birthed the formation of the Chinese communist party. High in the hills, the horrid conditions that the nearby peasants lived in gave strength to the party, and the beginning of the revolution was born. But in 1974, the region became known for something else completely.
The digging of a well turned out to unearth something much more significant than just water: an underground vault containing thousands of perfectly crafted sculptures, the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi'an. Each one life size, each one holding a weapon, many on horseback, each one surprisingly well-preserved for spending 2000 years beneath the ground. The following years resulted in the excavation of two nearby vaults. Though smaller in size, the amount of Terra Cotta Warriors found now numbered past 6000. And what was once a sleepy, unremarkable section of China is now home to one of the most famous tourist attractions in the entire country.
The formation of the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi'an is shrouded in speculation, but archaeologists believe there to be plenty more still sleeping in the hills outside the capital city. What they have already found, though, is impressive enough. Three rows of warriors with a variety of bows lead a collection of armored soldiers carrying daggers, swords, spears and axes. Pulling up the rear are the horse-drawn chariots, though the vehicles themselves were constructed out of wood and disintegrated years ago. The weapons were constructed out of early bronze, thus remaining resistant to the onset of time, though most of them have been collected and kept out of the current exhibition for safety reasons.
More recently, bronze chariots and horses have been found, though they are also kept away from the rest of the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi'an, instead housed in the nearby Qinyong museum just yards away from the stoic soldiers.
Though there are certainly more examples to come, the thousands of Terra Cotta Warriors remain a consistent tourist draw, as the site is easily accessed from the city of Xi'an, and frequent guided tours make their way through the procession of soldiers daily. Though the history and Terra Cotta Warriors facts make this a more interesting and informative way to view the excavated pit full of soldiers, little is lost if you choose to make the trip on your own—the warriors are just as immense and impressive and noble without narration, though you might get some anyway thanks to the forceful souvenir hawkers that faithfully disperse into the crowds of tourists, selling all kinds of tiny replicas of the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi'an.