The figures were buried more than 2,200 years ago in the tomb of China's first emperor of the Qin dynasty, Qin Shihuangdi, to guard him in the afterlife.
Historians believe it took more than 700,000 laborers 36 years to construct the tomb complex, which covers more than 19 square miles. The warriors were accompanied by hundreds of horses, chariots and weapons.
Remarkably, there are no two warriors alike. Each of the 7,000 statues were individually crafted with personalized hair styles and distinct facial features. The average warrior is 6 feet tall and weighs between 300 and 400 pounds.
From soldiers to generals to archers and musicians, this immense army was discovered in 1974 when local farmers in the city of of Xi'an unearthed a soldier's head while digging a well.
The National Geographic exhibit "Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor," opens today and run until March 31, 2010. Sure, you'll hardly see a fraction of the total, but the 15 life-sized soldiers are -- plus other artifacts from the emperor's tomb -- should pretty much be considered absolute must-sees.
This is the soldiers' last stop in the United States before they return to China. Tickets are $12. The exhibit is open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until 9 p.m. on Wednesday nights.