the many steps of reconstructing the terra cotta warriors

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The museum of the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the discovery of the famous army on March 29, 1974. Since the discovery, thousands upon thousands of pieces of horses, chariots, generals, animals, armor, and other sculpture have been unearthed at the site of the first emperor’s tomb outside of Xi’an. The original 6,000 soldiers and accompanying horses and other figures were modeled of earthen clay by 700,000 workers for the emperor over the course of thirty years, but perhaps even more impressive is the herculean task of painstakingly reconstructing the fragmented pieces, a monstrous jigsaw puzzle strewn about in the dusty pits of the emperor’s tomb.

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This enormous task of reconstruction, begun over the past forty years and ongoing today, is explained in a photo series here. The careful and well-documented process results in complete figures with their original facial features, clothing and armor restored to a vivid appearance. We welcome you to download China Tea Leaves 西安 Xi’an to plan a visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum and the other wonders of this ancient capital of China.

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