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The Restoration of Terra-cotta Figures and The Preservation of Colored Warriors


According to ShiJi (Records of Historians), Xiang Yu, a rebel against the Qin Dynasty, burned Emperor Qin palace and his mausoleum in 206 BC. So the construction of the Pits was damaged during the fire. The collapsed roof pressed the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses into fragments. None of them was completed when unearthed. Mending broken figures becomes a painstaking work for archaeological workers.


There is a company of partly assembled statues at the western end of Pit 1, where located the temporary restoration site of the museum now. Buried beneath them, more Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses await to be unearthed. A group of skilled workers toil here everyday to test the missing parts and try to make the right connections. Thousands of fragments awaiting connection have lain for years in long piles on the ground. Some fragments have marks on to indicate where the item was found and which statue it might belong. According to the marks, the pieces were glued together by epoxy item. Most of time, each statue would take a few months to be mended. If the workers can find one piece that fits in a day, that will be a lucky day. The final restoration step is to patch up the statues and then they will be sent back to the original places where they were found.


Ever since the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses were discovered 25 years ago, the flaking off of the has tormented archaeological accepts from around the world. After years of research, two new technological methods were invented by teams of experts of the Terra-cotta Museum and further developed in co-operation with experts from the Cultural Relics Office of Bavaria of Germany since 1996. These two inventions are knows as PEG200 and HEMA and now extensively applied on the newly unearthed kneeling archer from Pit 2. They can keep the original paint on the statues from fading and flaking after being brought to light.


Archaeological experts revealed that craftsmen in the Qin Dynasty first painted a layer of lacquer on the surface of the sculptured warriors, and then colored them with paint made of minerals. The water remained in the layer of lacquer evaporated soon after the warriors being unearthed and made the paint layer get creased.

The aim of two inventions is to replace the water in the lacquer layer and keep the paint on the lacquer layer from getting creased. The experts of the museum covered the colored Terra-cotta Warriors with a solvent of PEG200, Which slowly permeates into the lacquer layer to replace the water.

He other way is using a special chemical, dubbed HEMA, before stabilizing the paint by electronic beaming.

Both inventions worked, but the HEMA is now used more often than the PEG200 because experiments have revealed that it works better on arge pieces than the PEG200.


Emperor QinShihuang- The First Emperor in Chinese History
How Was Emperor QinShihuang's Mausoleum Constructed?
Emperor Qin's Mausoleum and Tombs
The Discovery and Excavation of Qin's Terra-cotta Army
The Terra-cotta Figures Construction
The Colorful Uniform of Qin Terra-cotta Figures
The Unique Weapons in the Terra-cotta Pits

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