The city of Xi’an is at the heart of China’s culture and history. It served as the capital seat of twelve dynasties totalling more than a thousand years, and its Wei River Valley, associated with the rise of the Zhou dynasty (c.1100 – 256 BCE) is one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization. Centuries later, in the Tang dynasty (c. 618-907) Xi’an, known then as Chang’an, became the first Chinese city to reach a million people and a centre of Buddhist activity. As the central Capital of China, Chang’an played a pivotal role in the expansion of the Silk Road network.
Fast forward to the 20th Century, when in 1974, local farmers were digging a well and unearthed a civilisation remodelled in clay that had laid buried underground for over 2000 years. The warriors on view today date back to 210 BC and represent a small selection of the estimated 8,000 strong army that are buried in Emperor Qin Shihuangdi’s tomb, created to defend him in the afterlife. One of the most important rulers in Chinese history, this emperor leaves a morally complicated legacy. He is known for his contributions to the modern state, as well as sacrificing the lives of over 700,000 labourers to his visionary projects, which also included the first Great Wall, constructed as a defence of the northern territories.