Xian is the capital of the the Chinese province of Shaanxi. It has been part of Chinese civilization for the past three millenia, having served as the capital of the Zhou, Qin, Sui, and Tang Dynasties.

In 1974, peasants working the fields outside the city discovered a huge subterranean vault, about a mile from the tomb of Qin Shihuangdi, the first emperor of China, containing life-size terracotta soldiers and animals. There was around 8000 clay figures, along with real swords, spears, iron farm tools, silk and linen fabrics. It has been untouched for the past 2,200 years.

Qin Shihuangdi ordered work to begin on this project when he was only 13 years old and became emperor. Around 700,000 conscripts worked on the project for over 30 years before it was complete. He wanted an "army" to guard his tomb for eternity, so history says. The vault was filled with figures of armed warriors, servants, and horses pulling manned war chariots, the entire retinue of China's first emperor.

The excavation of the vault is barely complete. Engineers have installed a system to preserve the terracotta artifacts. In addition, the terracotta army has been a boon to the Shaanxi province, providing millions of dollars of tourist money. It has been called the "Eighth Wonder of the World".