Significance of the Terracotta Army to the Society and the Economy of Qin Dynasty

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Immortality is the inability to die. Achieving immortality is impossible to any human because everybody has a lifespan towards demise. China’s first emperor achieved immortality in a unique way through an army that stood guard besides him in his burial site to guard him from underworld enemies.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of China between 210-209 BCE. Within his reign, Shi Huang developed a desire to conquer death and continue ruling in the underworld after death. Shi Huang instructed his men to build sculptures that depicted an army with chariots, horses and weapons inside his tomb. This army is known as the Terracotta army. Within the burial site, sprawled a citadel unearthed and complete with gardens, bronze ritual vessels, jade jewelry and ornaments made from gold and silver.  The Terracotta army is regarded as one of the top tourist attraction in China because of its historical significance. The brilliance of the sculpture is evident from the detailed life-size models that not only signify a historical period but also China’s military power 2000 years ago. Therefore, the Terracotta army historically represents one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites and China’s political and economic power.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang rose to power at an early age of thirteen years old. At this age, he commenced his plan of building the mausoleum. According to Sima Quian, Huang lined up the burial complex with expensive stones that represented the sun the moon and the stars. At these ancient times, Huang considered the cosmos and the universe as a guide to immortal existence. Such information establishes the early exploration of the universe by the Chinese. The army in the tomb was intended to protect the emperor in the underworld. The army figures varied in height according to their representative ranks; which indicates a form of military organization that contributed their military strength.

In the tomb, the emperor was surrounded by mercury, which was believed to be the substance of life. However, during the ancient times, the knowledge of mercury’s poisonous nature was also known. Therefore, the presence of mercury around the tomb might have been to poison the enemies and protect the emperor in the underworld or bring him back to life. During the ancient times, mercury was also used for medical purposes. Around the burial site, valuable stones like gold and jade were found. Gold was used by China for trading purposes and also grew popular towards the 4th century for coinage purposes. The utility and attributive values to elements show signs of early innovation and economic development.

Inside the Terracotta army tomb, hundreds of life-size model soldiers arrayed in lines were found. This establishment helps in understanding China’s history because it represented a sign of victory over other military states to establish China as a state. Therefore, the tomb contributes a remembrance of China’s military might during the ancient times. David Chan’s remarks in his book ‘China Rising’ are consistent with the Chinese military strength during the early centuries. He states that “the Chinese military army had been formidable since the ancient times”.


 The Terracotta army is undeniably one of the best indicators of China’s political fight during the ancient times. The Terracotta site provides valuable information on how early activities by man contributed the achievement of civilization and historical development. It also establishes early sources of space exploration and interest on the universe. Based on the understanding achieved from the Chinese activities, some modernity relative to China becomes more evident. In the modern world, the Chinese political power and control over the world economy is undeniable. Such developments are attributive to early organization and innovations.


Dator, James A. Social Foundations of Human Space Exploration. New York: Springer, 2012.

Kang, David C. China Rising Peace, Power, and Order in East Asia. New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Khana Academy and Asian Art Museum. Terra Cotta Warriors from the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor of China. China: Asian Art Museum. 2013.

June 07, 2022


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