Western Han Dynasty Terracotta Warriors Museum – Xuzhou, China - Atlas Obscura
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Xuzhou, China

Western Han Dynasty Terracotta Warriors Museum

The tiny statues form China's only known terracotta army from the Han dynasty. 

The world-famous terracotta warriors in Xi’an represent the artistic talent of the Qin dynasty. A few hundred miles away and unknown to most tourists, there’s an additional, younger collection of terracotta warriors from the Han dynasty.

Unlike the life-sized, incredibly detailed Xi’an statues, the Xuzhou specimens are smaller. The miniature humans are only about a foot tall and are more stylized in appearance. They were discovered buried beneath Lion Mountain in the 1980s and are China’s only known terracotta warriors from the Han dynasty.

The Western Han Dynasty Terracotta Warriors Museum features hundreds of these statues and displays them in various stages of discovery and restoration. You’ll walk past glass-enclosed pits still in the process of being excavated, as well as displays of fully restored pieces. Similar to in Xi’an, in addition to the soldier statues, excavations have revealed terracotta horses, miniature armor, and assorted infantry gear.

The tiny warriors are a fascinating aesthetic counterpoint to the famous Xi’an warriors: an army of figures that display individual characteristics, but which give the overall impression of uniformity. It’s quite literally a nearly faceless army of soldiers, as opposed to the individuality of the Xi’an statues.

Know Before You Go

Xuzhou is a medium-sized city in Jiangsu Province, a couple of hours by train from Shanghai. The city is not typically on the western tourist circuit, but features several interesting museums, a scenic lake, and a vibrant public market.