Villagers shake off poverty by making replica Terracotta Warriors in Shaanxi

Cao Zhizhuo and his wife work to create replica Terracotta Warrior statues at a workshop in Lintong, Shaanxi Province on Saturday. Photo: VCG
Every year, millions of tourists from home and abroad come to marvel at the Terracotta Warriors, the stone soldiers and horses buried to protect China’s first emperor Qinshihuang of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC) in the afterlife.
In Lintong county, near Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province, a parallel trade sprang up to provide souvenirs for the millions of annual visitors to the UNESCO-listed Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, providing a way out of poverty for the rural inhabitants who live around the tomb complex. Local residents knew the tomb existed, but the buried warriors were not uncovered until 1974, when some local farmers digging a well came across some pottery shards.
Cao Zhizhuo, a 56-year-old from Changxian county, Yulin of Shaanxi, is one of the “pottery warriors” craftsman, who for decades have churned out replicas of the terracotta statues so visitors can take home a little piece of one China’s top tourist attractions.
Cao started making the replicas 20 years ago, at a small factory. By his reckoning, he has made around 2 million statues by hand. Now, he works alongside his wife, and they earn more than 80,000 yuan ($1,191) a year, which has enabled them to build their own house in Lintong, site of the actual Terracotta Warriors museum, and send their two daughters to high school and son to university.
Now, tourists are less interested in buying a replica warrior, and there are many more products on offer than in past years. And due to environmental protection measures, many of the small workshops have been closed down. Only four or five are still running today, the factory owner said.
The replica warriors are from 8 centimeters to life-size – more than 1.5 meters tall – and are priced from several yuan to more than 1,000 yuan.
The replicas are made from clay which is put into molds and fired in kilns. The factory can also make bronze warriors, and accepts customized orders.

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