The immediate cause of the discovery of the Terracotta Army beside the remains of the tomb of the First Emperor of China's Qin dynasty, dating to 210 BCE, was well-digging by some peasants from a local communal farm. In March of 1974 these peasants unearthed the head of one of the soldiers about 15 meters down, and reported it to authorities. The news drew immediate attention from both professional archeological circles and the general public, both in China and abroad. The sheer size of the discovery -- over eight thousand life-sized statues of soldiers, nearly seven hundred figures of horses, and about 130 chariots -- and the incredible level of detail in the figures (the bodies are mass-produced but the faces are apparently individually modeled from life) sparked a worldwide wave of interest in the times of the Qin emperor and his unification of China in 221 BCE. They showed, among other things, that statuary art had a much longer and richer history in China than previously thought, they provided a vast amount of detail on the military equipment in use at the time, and the details of their construction demostrated that ancient China had mastered techniques of mass production, bringing together standardized parts made in many different areas to complete a finished product.
The area where the Terracotta Army is located is now a prime tourist attraction for both Chinese and foreign visitors, and it is said that figures from the site are one of the surest draws for any public exhibition, generating a level of interest comparable only to relics from the Titanic. China's economy has benefited noticeably from interest in this site. About the only persons to lose out were the original discoverers of the figures, the peasants from the local village. They have been given no compensation or recognition, and were forcibly moved from their village to make way for the excavations and museum.