• Andrew Singer

Big Archeology find at home of China’s Terracotta Army

An airport expansion project and a new subway line in Xian have turned into massive archeological sites, revealing thousands of valuable discoveries.


Originally Published by Mandy Zou on Inkstone


When hiking along wooded trails, down forest roads, across mountain passes, by the coast, and on city streets, I often wonder about who and what took these same paths in times gone by, about the history that happened in these places. Imagine what is waiting to be discovered in an ancient capital of China, say when expanding an airport or building a subway. Xi'an is a laboratory for fascinating answers.


-- Andrew Singer


The home of China’s terracotta army has once again revealed a treasure trove of archeologically significant artifacts, this time at an airport expansion project and the construction of a new subway line.


Over the past six months, archeologists at the sites in Xian, one of China’s oldest cities and its ancient capital for about 1,100 years, have discovered thousands of artifacts dating back centuries.


A project to expand the Xianyang International Airport has turned into an archeologist’s dream since the project began in July, revealing 4,600 artifacts, including 3,500 tombs.



An excavation site at an airport expansion project in Xian has revealed thousands of archeological artifacts. Photo: Weibo


At the subway, which covered an area with dense tombs dating back to the Sui dynasty (581-605) and Tang dynasty (618-907), workers found 1,300 tombs and four ancient kilns.


Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province in northwestern China, is where the world-famous terracotta army of life-size soldier sculptures, part of the mausoleum of the first emperor of China, was discovered in the 1970s.


The city’s status as an ancient capital makes Xian an archeologically vibrant city – so much so that its infrastructure lags behind other Chinese cities because workers keep discovering heritage artifacts during construction.


Every year, over 100 archaeological discoveries are made in Shaanxi province, which is well known as an important origin of the Chinese nation and Chinese culture, said Zhou Kuiying, deputy head of the provincial cultural relics bureau, at a press conference last month.


“These remains cover every period in history – from the origin of man to the last imperial dynasty Qing. I’d say that every discovery is culturally meaningful and worth study,” he said.

Archaeologists have worked overtime to make sure the construction projects were not delayed too long, the relics bureau said.



Xian is home to the terracotta army. Photo: Shutterstock


Wang Zili, deputy director of the Xian Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, told the People’s Daily newspaper, “In Xian, before any construction project starts, or before the government sells a certain parcel of land, an archaeological survey is carried out. This is rare in China.”


During the building of a new campus at the Northwest University of Political Science and Law in 2002, archaeologists found the tomb of Zhang Tang, a top judicial official of the Han dynasty (206BC-AD220AD).


A year earlier, the tomb of Li Chui, a princess from the Tang dynasty (618-907), was discovered on the campus of Xian University of Technology.

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