The incredible history of China’s terracotta warriors – Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen

What happens after death? Is there a restful paradise? An eternal torment? A rebirth? Or maybe just nothingness? Well, one Chinese emperor thought
that whatever the hereafter was, he better bring an army. We know that because in 1974, farmers digging a well
near their small village stumbled upon one of the most important
finds in archeological history: vast underground chambers
surrounding that emperor’s tomb, and containing more than 8,000
life-size clay soldiers ready for battle. The story of the subterranean army
begins with Ying Zheng, who came to power as the king
of the Qin state at the age of 13 in 246 BCE. Ambitious and ruthless, he would go on to become
Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China
after uniting its seven warring kingdoms. His 36 year reign
saw many historic accomplishments, including a universal system
of weights and measures, a single standardized writing script
for all of China, and a defensive barrier that would
later come to be known as the Great Wall. But perhaps Qin Shi Huangdi
dedicated so much effort to securing his historical legacy because he was obsessed
with his mortality. He spent his last years
desperately employing alchemists and deploying expeditions
in search of elixirs of life that would help him achieve immortality. And as early as the first year
of his reign, he began the construction of a massive
underground necropolis filled with monuments, artifacts, and an army to accompany him
into the next world and continue his rule. This magnificent army is still standing
in precise battle formation and is split across several pits. One contains a main force
of 6,000 soldiers, each weighing several hundred pounds, a second has more than 130 war chariots
and over 600 horses, and a third houses the high command. An empty fourth pit suggests
that the grand project could not be finished
before the emperor’s death. In addition, nearby chambers contain
figures of musicians and acrobats, workers and government officials, and various exotic animals, indicating that Emperor Qin
had more plans for the afterlife than simply waging war. All the figurines are sculpted
from terracotta, or baked earth, a type of reddish brown clay. To construct them, multiple workshops
and reportedly over 720,000 laborers were commandeered by the emperor, including groups of artisans who molded
each body part separately to construct statues as individual as
the real warriors in the emperor’s army. They stand according to rank and feature different weapons
and uniforms, distinct hairstyles and expressions, and even unique ears. Originally, each warrior was painted
in bright colors, but their exposure to air
caused the paint to dry and flake, leaving only the terracotta base. It is for this very reason that another
chamber less than a mile away has not been excavated. This is the actual tomb of
Qin Shi Huangdi, reported to contain palaces,
precious stones and artifacts, and even rivers of mercury
flowing through mountains of bronze. But until a way can be found to expose it
without damaging the treasures inside, the tomb remains sealed. Emperor Qin was not alone in wanting
company for his final destination. Ancient Egyptian tombs contain clay models
representing the ideal afterlife, the dead of Japan’s Kofun
period were buried with sculptures of horses and houses, and the graves of the Jaina island
off the Mexican coast are full of ceramic figurines. Fortunately, as ruthless as he was, Emperor Qin chose to have servants
and soldiers built for this purpose, rather than sacrificing living ones
to accompany him, as had been practiced in Egypt,
West Africa, Anatolia, parts of North America and even China during
the previous Shang and Zhou dynasties. And today, people travel from all over
the world to see these stoic soldiers silently awaiting their battle orders
for centuries to come.

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100 Responses

  1. Srinivas Srinivas says:

    Who else love this civilization

  2. Reyes Wong says:

    Her chinese is original lol.

  3. Shawn Chen says:

    This is what communism is all about

  4. Family Jirinchen says:

    Qin shihuan

  5. Ruby Gonzalez says:

    My teacher told my class to watch this video cuz we’re learning about ancient China. Thx for teaching me a lot ???

  6. Orion Pollux says:

    Vaporized TOXIC MERCURY Should be the reason, man!

  7. Milo Dragon says:

    0:24 the emperor has 6 fingers

  8. Mikail Imthiyaz says:


  9. Bed Sheets says:

    Why don’t they just create an artificial vacuum and send archaeologists in suits similar to modern spacesuits? It protects the contents of the tomb from air exposure and protects archaeologists from exposure to the mercury in the air and ground

  10. Naomi Carvalho says:

    One way to preserve the warriors after the tomb is opened could be to paint them all with a protective"second skin".
    I saw it in a video by MIT.

  11. Carson says:

    13yrs old and is already planning to construct his tomb. Is he from another universe? Here we have 13yrs old who still needs to wear diapers and can barely do anything else other than playing fortnite.

  12. CHEN CHU says:

    Actually, this emperor killed all the people who constructed the tomb, because he didn't want anyone to know where the tomb was.

  13. Katherine Manrriquez says:

    I love that we are keeping it sealed until we are pretty sure we won't ruin it with our curiosity.

  14. Axeliaa __ says:

    If people were to open the tomb, it would contain so much Mercury it could kill the beholder. And it can be a target of robberies .

  15. AmandaMenghe says:

    Despite the fact that he fought for this empire Qinshihuangdi wasn't a very good ruler. His empire only lasted for 15 years counting him and his son combined. All these years he was either building the Great Wall or this.

  16. Laura Adams says:

    Anyone here that reads Kingdom and it's thinking of Ei Sei?

  17. dafid 25 says:

    10/10 chinese pronounciation
    approved by china

  18. Ashton Chin says:

    Correct pronunciation!!!

  19. Mochi says:

    But he only ruled 15 years….. that’s what my teacher and textbook saided

  20. VAN月 says:

    Think about it,If Alexander came to China at the time, it might be that there was no return, even if the West had stronger shields and physiques.Qin’s suppression of numbers and tactics, and the Qin have ten times the range of Western bows and arrows, and can shoot arrows on horseback.

  21. kush astea says:

    there are so many misconceptions about qin shi huang. first of all, he was heavily smeared by later historians because he practiced legalism, an adversary of confuscius teachings. second, he proposed the idea that aristocrats should follow the same laws as peasants, which angered many aristocrats (who were the ones writing those history books). amongst the books he burned many were false medical texts. i mean, if he really burned the good books, then where did all the confuscius and daoist texts come from? qin shi huang was a harsh ruler, but not an unwise one. his son, however, imposed some of those stricter laws. that led to internal disorder and brought the downfall of qin dynasty.

  22. PaytonTheRavenpuff says:

    Where’s TED?

  23. madstabber crazy says:

    good video come up the great

  24. Jenna Posts says:

    It’s Qin Shi WANG not huang isn’t it. You know huang is yellow right

  25. Darcy Burton says:


  26. Bryce says:

    Can I take Chinese lessons from her?

  27. Shadow _FX says:

    it feels so great listening to someone who pronounce it so greatly

  28. Ai A says:

    I’m glad they weren’t shoved in museums across the globe and left where they’re supposed to be 🙂

  29. Joy Singh says:

    When I die I want to bury a terracotta Thanos. Simply destroys every thing, good luck 🙂

  30. Matt Hillman says:

    Their battle is never going to come I doubt it cuz if it does Let's See How they like atomic bomb

  31. keystring says:

    I've gone there and I learn more about it on here lol

  32. Rajul Verma says:

    @ted why is pok not part of India in the map?

  33. ChengKai Liao says:

    Your Chinese pronunciation is very accurate lol

  34. GHUZLAN SALEH says:


  35. M N says:

    The narrator is a Chinese

  36. JUSTIN MINGO says:


  37. jack sprat says:

    A self-obsessed emperor, but I repeat myself.

  38. Kalin Yan says:

    I’ve been there and seen them irl and I think I have a couple miniature replicas of them made from clay they dug out of the pits where the statues are. They were pretty cool but like, shorter than I expected. (Which makes sense I guess people back then were short)

  39. Janae Adventures says:

    This is so cool! I’ve been living here in China for almost a yea now!

  40. Fawk Yu says:

    There's a manga and anime based on this dude's life called Kingdom, it's pretty dope, yall should check it out!

  41. Shinra Tensei says:

    Open his tomb before I die please

  42. Z hao says:

    great vid!

  43. Yuki Oh says:

    Oh my god as a kid I always thought he buried them alive with him

  44. Ethan Mathew says:


  45. leif kvenvolden says:

    I got to see them in person! one of my friends told me a kid smashed one 🙁

  46. Oldman Jenkins says:

    sadly nowaday if we ever been excavated for another century generations to found, the only found plastic and some nokia phone thats still works

  47. Maekar I Targaryen says:

    I can speak absolutely no Chinese but I love the way the narrator pronounces the names and places. But for all I know she could be butchering the pronunciation!

  48. lrcssndr says:

    this was our lesson in history and it killed me so thank you!

  49. snillocgrom says:

    So he's Aegon the Conqueror, uniting the 7 kingdoms.

  50. Dominic Phillip says:

    the story was told wrong… they find out due to the mining of soil not the well ?

  51. AnAcquatic Army says:

    Jin state
    ARMIES BE LIKE *smirks*

  52. Annika Qin says:

    My last name is Qin

  53. Candra Rakhmasari says:

    I love how people in ted ed always put the effort to pronounce foreign words correctly

  54. Munkhbayar Mendsaikhan says:


    sounded like peter pan

  55. Eklavya Goyal says:

    No one:
    Ted-Ed: What happens after death?

  56. im memes says:

    When your master dies and you have to die to serve him in the afterlife

    Me: excuse me wtf

  57. Ryde Mk says:

    “Great Emperor! So glad too see you here in the afterlife”
    “Wait but why do you have a army with you”

    Quin Shi: “I don’t know. Wait did you just question me?! Army! Attack!”

  58. Maeta Jerdjumraskul says:

    “River of mercury” huh’ what’s up cancer

  59. Kiera Dravenstott says:

    hi friends!

  60. 闫小暑 says:

    Some people think Qinshihuang is unmerciful,but I don't think so , it is a kind of political skill in the specially time. i know that Qin dynasty have the most cruel torture,but the Dracos Code is a powerful way to help the large of peple to maintain a stable and orderly society.but without buried the living, it also can see, he is not a real inexorability people.

  61. jeezus yeezus says:

    I woulda made me some Terra-cotta hoes for the afterlife

  62. johnraven claro says:

    Wow he is 13 years old when he became a king and he also unified china? My god he must be a genius war strategist….

  63. William Xu says:

    Just imagine Qin Shi Huang and his army of half-formed soldiers.

  64. William Xu says:

    "Fortunately, as ruthless as he was, Emperor Qin chose to have servants and soldiers built for this purpose, rather than sacrificing living ones to accompany him"
    But you forget all them workers had to get killed to keep his tomb a secret.

  65. Gunj Chowwiwat says:

    I'd love to visit this zoo.

  66. barb deboer says:

    This video tells lots of useful info for scientific studies on the tomb

  67. Jewel Little says:

    Shamelessly recruiting on random videos.
    Teach English to Chinese kids online, $14 an hour starting.

  68. KingSta says:

    Terracotta Warriors… Assemble!

  69. blasttrash says:

    So this is Ying Zhen from Kingdom manga. Man that kid came a long way lol.

  70. Jonathan Serna says:

    So Fascinating

  71. User name says:

    When working at Buckingham palace as a guard goes too far

  72. Sech Mash says:

    Welp I'm just here for a art class

  73. Kreativen ProtoCyclops says:

    Yey! I knew it would come up soon, and wow, he's such an artist!…or not

  74. Katarzyna Matracz says:

    We invented nuclear bombing. We could nuke these terracotta soldiers if we wanted to. XD

  75. Nicolás Wiedemann says:

    He literally brought an army to conquer the afterlife. What a legend

  76. yibby says:

    its mathematics luv

  77. RachetHoe3000 the 2nd says:

    First emperor.. UNITING THE 7 KINGDOMS???

  78. E h says:

    One particularly interesting, and disturbing thing about the site surrounding the mound that holds Emperor Qin's tomb is that it is covered with 800+ skeletons of women all lying in a way that points to the mound. Archaeologists think that they may have been royal concubines as they were buried wearing precious clothes and jewellery and apparently date back to around the period that the emperor died. This whole burial area of the emperor is not only a massive find, but a final testament to Emperor Qin's ruthlessness

  79. Kim Beverly Villalobos says:

    Yeah spread the word bout the unopened tomb, I'm sure some people are planning a heist right about now.

  80. Theekshana Asokan says:

    3:19 anyone here thought about the Mummy movie that came out in 2017

  81. Leixa ღ Shipper says:

    What about the mercury river!!

  82. SMTOWN ENT says:

    is this from the mummy?

  83. ismail ford says:

    Is it just me or did anyone else think of The Mummy?

  84. sagar chowdhary says:

    Bury me with my life-sized waifu figurines….

  85. Delphine de bokay says:

    Add two "is" es to pen pen chen and youll get a funny new name!!!!

  86. 杜非凡 says:

    How many lives were forced to make this wonder ?Deplore that humans were subjected to this workload. Our modern life is evolved from numerous accounts of such brutal tyranny over the unheard-of, silent ghosts who had never got another choice. Pathetic. Sad. This is sad. We admire this historical relics but not the haunting sobbing of the innocent people made to sacrifice their lives to serve the only dictator.

  87. NathanHam16 says:

    Right pronounciation! He'll yeah

  88. Monte Cristo says:

    When people think of Chinese government, these words come to mind: dictatorship, no freedom, lack or transparency, lies, fake news, exaggerated propaganda, manipulating people mind.
    It is possible that many of the terracotta histories are fake or exaggerated.

    Yes, they did find something in the emperor's tomb, but these stuffs may not be so impressive like they try to show us now.

    They may say anything they want (like 8,000 life-size clay soldiers, each one is the replica of a real soldier, with his unique face, etc.), but how do we know it is truth?

    They are showing these soldiers in a museum, but they are all reconstruction, not the original statues.

    How do we know that these (very well made) reconstructed statues are really the same ones in the grave?

    Since this finding don't affect other country's economic, political or military interests, nobody cares if they are false. China may say anything they want to say, and nobody will ask them for proof.

  89. Robert Galletta says:


  90. calska140 says:

    Terra cotta soldiers, servants, and artists. No terra cotta harem?

  91. Pazelloxu says:


  92. Sophie Mairead says:

    I believe in the after life and rebirth

  93. Fabricio Aceves says:

    "if it be, will be when I want, not when you want," he said, so are you gonna a do it or no? 2 days, no intermediares, under the sun light, by my sealf, dont worry rabbine I know what I do, I do not betray your peole, its a Levi, or Cohen, its In Tur key, a red cord with an eye, chemicals, Union,I will buil it, you will be served

  94. Michael Standefer says:

    After death, I will discover a restful paradise.

  95. Tricia Prescott says:

    Interesting video of the Terra Cotta Army in Ancient China. The Chinese is pronounced correctly, which is educational.

  96. Hunter6213 says:

    Pharaohs: We build Pyramids for our afterlives! No one is gonna dig our bodies and treasures out!
    Qin Shi Huang: Hold my rice wine.

  97. Mein Feish says:

    I thought terracotta con only be found in the mesa biome

  98. Kim Jong Un says:

    where is shin ouhon and mouten?

  99. Arcel Glenn Mayrena says:

    Wow, the folly of people who can't let go.

  100. Asura Khæñ says:

    An army of fools that shall stand for eternity until A massive tyrant appears

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