“Chin Shih-huang’s ‘forgotten army’”, ran a headline in the South China Morning Post on July 16, 1975, hailing the discovery of the terracotta warriors, near Xian, in Shaanxi province.
“Chinese archeologists have unearthed 2,100-year-old life-size pottery figures of warriors and horses from a huge pit in northwest China” the story continued. “Since last July the archeologists have excavated some 1,000 metres of the estimated 12,600-square-metre pit, which they say may contain a total of some 6,000 warrior figures.”
To date, a total of 8,000 warrior figures in three pits have been found.
On July 24, the Post reported the publication by the People’s Daily, a day earlier, of two photographs to illustrate the find, and described it as being “one of the most important archeological discoveries of all time”.
“The discovery was made […] near the tomb of Emperor Chin Shih-huang,” the report said. “The warriors, lined up in ranks, carry real arms – crossbows, bows and arrows and lances and swords whose blades were still gleaming and rust-free.”
One of the People’s Daily’ pictures showed a room in which two experts were working to restore five warriors and two horses. “The warriors are at least two heads taller than the experts working on them,” the Post reported.
A story in the Post on August 1 stated: “The pit is at Mount Li, burial site of Chin Shih-huang, founder of China’s dynamic short-lived Chin dynasty which collapsed about 206BC but had profound repercussions and ushered in four centuries of imperial unity.”
The two horses and five warriors had been exhibited at Xian Museum the previous day. One of the few Western visitors told the Post: “The horses are not the Tang type. They are heavy looking. But their faces are beautiful. […] They really are magnificent and their size is awesome.”
According to the Post, while laymen found the figures extraordinary, “historians and archeologists expected little less from the mausoleum of one of the most dramatic figures in the country’s past”.
On October 4, 1984, the Post reported the terracotta army had attracted 6 million tourists since going on display near Xian in 1979.