The Terracotta Warrior exhibition, featuring artifacts from the Qin dynasty and nine life-size statues from the extended burial complex built for Qin Shi Huang, is on display through Aug. 26. [Photos: Terracotta Warriors Protect Secret Tomb]
The warring states
Qin Shi Huang (pronounced "chin shuh hwang") was born in 259 B.C., first son to the king of Qin, one of six independent kingdoms inside modern China. These kingdoms had been warring for more than 200 years, but through a combination of military strength, strategy and natural disasters, Qin Shi Huang conquered them all, proclaiming himself not just a king, but also an emperor — the first of China.
Scholars still debate the details of how this occurred, and what unique tactics allowed the Qin emperor to achieve what no one had managed before.
When he died, Qin Shi Huang was buried in the most opulent tomb complex ever constructed in China, a sprawling, city-size collection of underground caverns containing everything the emperor would need for the afterlife. The ancient Chinese, along with many cultures including ancient Egyptians, believed that items and even people buried with a person could be taken with him to the afterlife.
But instead of burying his armies, concubines, administrators and servants with him, the Qin emperor came up with an alternative: clay reproductions.
In 1974, a group of farmers digging wells near Xi'an, China stumbled upon one of the most shocking archaeological discoveries of all time. The life-size terracotta solider they dug out of the ground turned out to be just one of an army of...