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China’s Terracotta Army: The Terracotta Warriors

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Cultures +2 Age Levels Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old)

In this activity, students explore the Terracotta Army, a group of approximately 7,000 terracotta figures of warriors and horses made for China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuang (259 – 210 BCE). After learning about Qin dynasty (221 – 206 BCE) afterlife beliefs analyzing the types of figures, layout of pits, and other object included, students will create their own arguments about what the Terracotta Army reveals about Emperor Qin Shihuang. This collection is Part 2 in a series of collections created for a social studies classroom; for more information, click “Read More.”

Objects found in Emperor Qin Shihuang’s elaborate tomb complex, which covers a total area of 17.6 square miles, make up the majority of surviving objects from this significant period in Chinese history. They are some of the best archaeological evidence researchers have for understanding the spiritual beliefs, military practices, and values of the ruler responsible for unifying China for the first time in its history. 

Authors of this collection are the Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, and the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

Tags: archaeology; archaeologist; ancient history; artifact; afterlife; funerary practices; burial; death; spiritual beliefs; military; soldier; sculpture; chinese; world; asia; asian; xi'an; empire; cross-cultural comparison; think puzzle explore; strategy; project zero; visible thinking routine; terra cotta; qin shi huang; shihuangdi; shi huang di; earthenware; ceramics

Mystery Object

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Pit No. 1

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Map of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Tomb Complex

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Terracotta Warrior Trio

Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum

Terracotta Warriors Face Grid

Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum

Kneeling archer (shoe detail)

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Clay Model of Terracotta Figure Creation Steps

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Excavation of Terracotta Warrior

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Pit No. 1

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Pit No. 3

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Pit No. 2

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Diagram of Pit No. 2

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Terracotta horse

Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum

Bronze crossbow

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Map of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Tomb Complex

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Map of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Tomb Complex

Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum

Think / Puzzle / Explore: Project Zero Visible Thinking Routine

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access