One of the oldest cities in China, Xi’an is the capital of the Shaanxi province and is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China. When China was unified for the first time under Qin Shi Huang in 221 BC, he ordered the construction of the Terracotta Army, a project that he had been envisaging for many years. The collection of life-sized terracotta sculptures is a form of funerary art depicting his army, and was buried with the emperor on his death in 210 BC.
The Qin Dynasty’s capital was at the nearby city of Xianyang (located on the Wei River, a few kilometres from Xi’an) and from here Qin Shi Huang supervised the creation of the mausoleum, which mimicked the layout of Xianyang. It’s estimated that over 700,000 workers were on the project, the large number required because of the scale and the fact that each of the estimated 8,000 terracotta figures have different profiles and facial expressions. Halted a year after the Emperor’s death, much research on the site claims that all of the workers were buried alive on the site or after being poisoned, so that the secret of the mausoleum would be intact and safe from tomb robbers. His plan appears to have worked, as the site was only rediscovered in 1974, by farmers digging a well.