Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (1987)
(Terracotta Warriors)

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United Nations (Geneva) 1997. Terracotta Warrior, China. Stamp #1 of six.

No doubt thousands of statues still remain to be unearthed at this archaeological site, which was not discovered until 1974. Qin (d. 210 B.C.), the first unifier of China, is buried, surrounded by the famous terracotta warriors, at the centre of a complex designed to mirror the urban plan of the capital, Xianyan. The small figures are all different; with their horses, chariots and weapons, they are masterpieces of realism and also of great historical interest. 

  • United Nations (Geneva) 1997. Terracotta Warriors.

United Nations (Geneva) 1997. Terracotta Warrior, China. Stamp #2 of six.

One of the most stunning examples of Martial Arts of China is the finding of the Terracotta Army, a collection of over 6,000 life-size terracotta statues of soldiers and horses, discovered in March 1974 at Qin, near the modern city of Xi’an (that was the former Chang'an ("Eternal Peace"), previously the ancient capital of the Qin Dynasty), in China. 

Farmers drilling a well found a subterranean chamber containing terracotta statues. Further investigation subsequently revealed the amazing scale of the discovery. The figures, facing east, ready for battle, were individually modelled, probably as portraits of real people, and they were accompanied by real chariots, bronze and leather bridles, and objects of jade and bone. Their weapons included bows, arrows, spears, and swords, many made from an unusual alloy that was still bright and sharp when found.  


China 1983. Terracotta Army. Heads figures. Stamp #1 of four. China 1983. Terracotta Army. Terracotta soldiers. Stamp #2 of four. China 1983. Terracotta Army. Soldiers and horses. Stamp #3 of four. China 1983. Terracotta Army. Aerial view of the excavation. Stamp #4 of four.

The tomb was built around 2,100 years ago, and the Terracotta Army is thought to be part of a funeral compound that could have covered a huge area of up to 50 sq km (19 sq mi). Ancient Chinese writings describe the building of a vast underground palace concealed under a mound to house the dead emperor.  Whatever the truth of these reports the site still remains to be fully discovered.  The main tomb itself is still unexcavated, but other finds already include a series of large bronzes, the earliest so far known in China, and over 70 individual burials.  The Terracotta Army has been exhibited world wide.  

China 1983. Booklet Cover of the 1983-set of Terracotta Army. China 1983. Souvenir sheet showing part of the Terracotta Army and a warrior with his horse.
Each figure is about 1.8 meter tall and each face is modelled individually with personal characteristics.   When the terracotta figures were excavated, their cheeks were still rosy, and they wore painted uniforms.  The contact with the oxygen of the air has now turned the figures black.  In the caves of the Bingmayong Museum outside Xi'an the figures are arranged in typical formation for fight; 11 rows consisting of officers, soldiers with spears and swords (many of these being real weapons), and men directing horse chariots. At the occasion of the 15th anniversary of this important archeological and historical finding China issued the below stamps and sheet, the latter showing the horse chariots.
  • Hong Kong (China) 2003. The Terracotta Warriors in the Mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor. Scan by courtesy of Mr. Mario Villena (Spain). 

China 1990. Head of Terracotta Warrior. China 1990. Chariots and horses found in the Terracotta Army Excavations.
China 1990. Head of Horse from the Terracotta Army.

In 1997 the excavation of the warriors was declared a World Cultural Heritage by the United Nations, and the below stamps were issued at this occasion.   
United Nations (Geneva) 1997. Terracotta Warrior, China. Stamp #4 of six.

United Nations (Geneva) 1997. Terracotta Warrior, China. Stamp #6 of six.

United Nations (Geneva) 1997. Terracotta Warrior, China. Stamp #3 of six.

United Nations (Geneva) 1997. Terracotta Warrior, China. Stamp #5 of six.

United Nations (Geneva) 1997. Terracotta Warrior, China. First Day Cover.

The Terracotta Army has been identified as part of the burial of Shi Huangdi, the first Qin emperor of China, who began the construction of the Great Wall, also a World Cultural Heritage property, (on this web site), around 220 BC. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in China (on this site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section China for further information about the individual properties.  

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Revised 24 jun 2007  
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