The portions of the site that are open to the public include three large ‘pits’, cleverly named Pit 1, Pit 2 and Pit 3. The largest of the pits is the first one, and it contains several hundred intact statues and horses. There are rows and rows of soldiers standing in formation, looking like they are prepared for battle. When they were originally created more than 2 millennia ago, they were painted in traditional military colors. Today most of that color is gone, and the statues are bland and earth-toned.
Is there European Influence?
Archeologists are still debating the origin of the sculptures style. The design of the warriors and horses don’t look anything like the statuary created during the same time period in China. It’s now thought that there was significant influence from Greek artisans who where brought to northern China to teach locals on the fine art of sculpting. DNA evidence found near the site includes European genetic codes, so this idea doesn’t seem unlikely. If this were true, it would mean Greek artisans had been in China more than a thousand years ahead of Marco Polo.
Overall, this is a fascinating place to visit. As a photographer, it’s a bit disappointing, since it’s really challenging to get great images in the site. But from a historical point of view, it’s definitely worth your time. Getting to the site takes about an hour by car from Xi’an city, and entrance to the site costs about $22 USD. Pro tip: don’t give in to the pressure to buy souvenirs at the shops near the dig sites – you’ll get better prices in the main city.