In 1974, peasants digging a well in the northern Chinese city of Xi'an were disappointed in their search for water. Instead, they uncovered the major archaeological discovery of the 20th century: An underground vault that for over two millennia had been home to more than 8000 beautifully crafted, life-size terracotta soldiers. Xi'an, a dusty industrial city in the province of Shaanxi, suddenly had one of the world's premier tourist attractions.
For 2200 years the Xi'an terracotta warriors silently guarded the tomb of Qin Shihuang, first Emperor of China, remembered chiefly for uniting China in 222 BC thanks to a judicious mix of torture, murder and cruelty. By the time he'd pulled the country together, standardised the currency and made a good start on the Great Wall of China, the Emperor had made more than a few enemies. None could touch him while he strutted the earth, but he feared the afterlife was a different story. To ensure his safety from the petulant gods of the netherworld, Shihuang had a terracotta army made and buried with him in a massive tomb to protect and follow him into immortality.