The Underground Army Of Han Yangling

Although the Terracota army of Emperor Qin is the main attraction in Xian, there is another lesser known subterranean army that is just as, if not more, impressive!

The underground army of Han Emperor Jing Di Liu Qi and Empress Wang Zhi at Yangling, is six times larger, houses around 40,000 individual figures, and is supposed to have taken 28 years to construct!

The army was interred with the king in 141 BC around his burial mound that is still untouched. The swank museum sits right over the 10 excavated pits (of the 81 in total!!) The floor of the museum is clear glass and beneath your feet, half embedded in the trenches, lie columns of miniature doll like figures of clay soldiers and animals!

These figures are one third the size of the Qin warriors and unlike them, once had colorful silk attire and movable wooden limbs that have long since disintegrated! Another distinct difference between the two sites is the the absence of jostling hordes of tourists that makes for a more intimate viewing.

Han Yangling Museum, Xian
Close up of soldiers missing their wooden limbs.

With its softly lit trenches, the limbless naked figures with their gentle smiling faces, and the reverent hush that pervades the space, this special museum seems a fitting tribute to a benevolent emperor who ushered in peace and revived cultural freedom after the repressive regime of Qin.

Located just 40 km from the center of town towards the airport, Han Yangling Museum, in my opinion, should be an unmissable part of any Xian itinerary.

Until next time…happy travels, no matter where life takes you!

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

66 thoughts on “The Underground Army Of Han Yangling

    1. Thank you so much! They were rather hard to photograph through the glass with my basic camera. Should be a breeze with your skills 🙂

    1. The ancient Chinese believed that their life after death would continue just as it did on earth so they made sure they had everything they needed to ensure the same comfort and status that they had enjoyed in real life! Including replicas of their palaces, armies, the entire landscape of the kingdom in the case of Qin!!

      1. It is funny to see how this idea is repeated in a lot of ancient cultures, or almost in all of them….
        Wonderful and fascinant post!

  1. Amazing pictures, Madhu! I have been reading about and wanting to see the terracota army ever since I saw it featured on a travel show on TLC. China is high on my list of places to visit. There are so many places I want to see, I don’t how or when, though. Your blog will keep me happy till then 🙂

  2. Wow Madhu, I never knew that this even existed! Strangely enough, it reminds me of something I’ve seen in contemporary Chinese art… I believe there’s an artist who uses some very similar figures. Great post, as always!

    1. Many thanks James! Not very familiar with Chinese contemporary art except for a few paintings of hutongs we saw in Bejing. Would you have the name of the artist? Thanks again!

  3. Wow, this was a great post documenting your exploration of the museum. Your blog is also very well put-together. Your photos are great and your post is very well-written. After reading your post, if I were to visit this part of China, I would definitely try to look up the Han Yangling Museum!

  4. Wow! Definitely something new i’ve learnt today! Didn’t know there’s is an even larger burial site than the Terracotta Army. Fantastic photos. Will comeback for more 🙂

  5. I was in Xian during Feb 2012. I went to Han Yang Ling but my camera couldn’t take as fine a photo as yours did. This mausoleum is fairly new and few tourists make the effort to see it. I was in a tour of Chinese visitors. We had to squeeze in this place, Fa Men Si and Qian Ling all in one day. The impression of the Han era, a very domesticized and peaceful regime is vastly different from the monumental Qin terracotta warrior pits. I’ll go back again.

    1. You should. This site in particular demands quiet contemplation. Such a pity that you were rushed around. That is the primary reason we eschew tour groups when we travel. Appreciate your stopping by to comment at length Lu Pei! Hope to see you around!

    1. We enjoyed these little warriors even more than the grander terracotta army! Thank you for checking it out.

  6. I had never heard of this place. I wish our guide had taken us there, as it looks so wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing, and great pics. 😉

    1. You are most welcome AD. I had read up about this museum and requested to be taken there in advance. It really was a special place.

  7. You captured them beautifully in spite of having just a basic camera ,;). You have seen so many things, and I have wondered how many days a year you travel and if you do some sport to be in shape for all this sightseeing and touring :D. I worked as a tour guide for 5 summers when I was very young, and I remember how exhausting it can be… I am not saying that it is not compensated with all the amazing and exciting things you see on your trips, but still… makes me wonder 🙂
    Beautifully written post!

  8. Wow. I spent a couple of months travelling China but it just shows you that this country has so much more to offer. Xian was one of my favourite places, can’t believe I missed this!

  9. I’m glad you brought this impressive historical treasure into view through your blog, Madhu. I hear China is beautiful. I hope to visit someday. Keep up the good work!

  10. We saw the Terra Cotta army in Xian, and knew nothing of this sight and museum. I’m sorry we missed it, and am glad for the photo essay. ~James

  11. Such an amazing museum,,,interesting…i would like to visit this place..its a once a life time opportunity.Thanks for sharing this.

  12. We went to see the Terracotta Army when a part of it visited Toronto. The exhibition was fascinating and interesting (of course I am one of those people who read those little bits that are displayed in front of every item).

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