Tomb Raider & the Terracotta Army

Terracotta Warriors exploring individual features. Okh Eshivar 2017

In honor of the revisit of the Terracotta Warriors where I live, I could not pass up writing this. I also enjoy the fact they were part of the tomb Raider Movie The Cradle of Life. Also, Tomb Raider II and the Dagger of Xi’an, well Xi’an, in the Shaanxi Province, is a city connected to the Terracotta Army. In the level of the game dealing with the Temple of Xi’an Lara goes by several rows of statues. You can check them out in the screenshots below. This is what makes this subject of great interest to me. The movie and the game dealt with them in some ways, though not the star focus.

Now in the game as far as I know, they are not named “Terracotta Army”, however, with the connection to Xi’an and the fact this is the home of the famous warriors which stand in rows like these in the game, everything seems to be inspired by them for these elements. 

Game Images that could be depicting the warriors.

(Click each image for a larger view)



Museum piece Qin Shi Huang 259 BC – 210 BC

About Emperor Qin

Emperor Qin Shi Huang 259 BC – 210 BC built some of the greatest historical sites in China.We all know or have heard about the Great Wall of China for one,  another was his own tomb. He had a huge army of terracotta warriors and their horses created to guard him in his afterlife over 2,000 years ago. It was the emperor’s tradition in China to build their tombs upon taking the throne. Emperor Qin used slave labor to build his tomb, palaces, and even the great wall.  Though he was a harsh dictator, his was an empire that recognized great achievement and influenced Chinese history. He unified the warring states of China and he standardized weights and measures. Including the legal and political systems.  Qin was a secretive man, and one big example of this trait is he wanted to keep the location of his tomb a complete secret. This was a bad thing for the people that labored to make it, for Qin’s son had them buried alive in the end. 

Qin Empire Image created by: Jack Yuan

A Youngling into power

 At the age of 13 Qin succeeded his father, and being aggressive and ambitious out of the gate, he came into complete power by the age of 22. He did this by getting rid of his premier. Lu Buwei, his acting regent while he was a minor. He wanted to conquer and unify the six Chinese states of Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan, Han, and Qi. The way things were when he assumed power was each state had their own characters defining language, currency among other things, and as you can imagine it made things confusing at the very least. He recognized it all needed to be unified under one (standardized writing system) language etc.  He was successful in his efforts and thereby his was the first feudal time’s centralized empire in Chinese history in 221 BC. It is better known as the Qin Dynasty 221 BC – 206 BC.

The unified states of China in Qin’s Empire.

Being the first emperor of a united China he named himself Qin Shi Huang. But what does it mean and why?


 It’s all in the name:

Known later as Emperor Qin Shi Huang, or Qin Shi Huangdi he was born as Ying Zheng. He felt he’d surpassed the great legends of China with his achievements and took the new title “Huang” Meaning “Emperor” when you put this together with the word “Shi” (meaning first) you have Qin Shi Huangdi” or Qin Shi Huang it means Qin was the first Emperor of China.





Who Were the Warriors?

One of the most exciting things about examining these soldiers from centuries ago is when you are up close and realize they are all different. The why? In the questions are simple really. The Emperor had each soldier created to look like a member of his actual army. They are as unique as the real people were. It is like looking at a snapshot from the past. The closest we can get to who they were.

Dr. Wu Yongqi (Director, Museum of the Terracotta Army) mentioned in 1974 some Chinese farmers were digging a well (one named Zang Zhifa gave an interview about his experience of finding the warriors) just outside of Xi’an. During their digging, they dislodged pieces of earthenware along what they thought to be a pot. Zang Zhifa realized these were parts of artifacts and something far bigger in range of size and historical significance, and thus took many artifacts from the dig site to the museum for evaluation. History was made on that day and the site is now a Uneco world heritage site

In other scholarly reports about the site, the archaeologists unearthed over 500 life-sized statues of humans and horses. Just for a start. Eventually, the trench they were digging to unearth all of these remarkable figures was expanded to 700 feet by 200 feet. They realized there was an army numbering over 6000.  They were comprised of warriors, archers, charioteers, cavalry troops, and infantrymen.

It was in 1976 archaeologists discovered two more trenches with many more of these amazing statues. These were full of horses, cavalrymen, foot soldiers, and chariots. The army covered an area of five acres. The figures stood in rows with the purpose of guarding the tomb of the Emperor of China.

SIDE NOTE: The tomb of the emperor was a huge undertaking of 36 years and over 700,000 people to completion.

 There are at least 24 facial hair styles of mustaches and chin whiskers on the status. This is one reason it is believed that individual soldiers from Qin’s army posed for each statue. Although they were painted in bright colors when first made, over the years of floods and fires etc the paint is gone leaving behind a “ghostly gray”. The task of piecing together each damaged statue to restore them to their past beauty is continuing and expected to span many more years.



The site in which these amazing warriors reside is one mile east of Qin’s mausoleum. These warriors are in three trenches.

Trench Content 

Trench  1 contained chariots and six thousand soldiers; trench 2 had 1400 terracotta cavalrymen, horses, and infantrymen. There were also ninety wooden chariots. Trench – 3 about seventy terracotta soldiers and are still being unearthed.

About the Great Wall

Though Qin is credited with this prominent structure,  the initial work on the Great Wall began back in 656 B.C. by Duke Qi Huangong, also known as Duke Huan of Qi, in those days ruled from the state of Qi, however, today it is known as the Shandong Province. After his death, the successors of the kingdom continued developing the wall in order to secure their people from the neighboring states and others for at this time there was no unification.  it was in the 3rd century BC that Emperor Qin refined the wall. Though he did this to thwart the Mongolians and other tribes, it still didn’t stop them in the end. However, it is a magnificent engineering feat nonetheless, and it was also featured in Tomb Raider II so it needed a bit of distinction as well. 



A couple more fascinating videos from the Unesco site to enjoy. Notice the scope of the site and the diversity of features of each soldier. This is what I was meaning, when you take them in as individuals you realize how unique they all are. You are reachig through history. Amazing!





Until we meet again:

Explore the World! 


Source materials are taken from:

Project Muse

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