The No.2 pit of the famed terra-cotta warriors excavated around the Mausoleum of Qinshihuang, the First Emperor of China's Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.-206 B.C.), was closed to visitors for almost six months of repair work from Thursday.
A spokesman with Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum said leaks had been found in places in the roof of the shed over the pit.
"When it rains, the water comes in although we have time and again asked experts to mend the leaks, so we decided to close the pit and repair the roof," said the spokesman.
However, the only part of the pit affected by the leaks was the unexcavated part.
More than 2,000 relics have been found in the No.2 pit. The warriors unearthed there have striking features, brightly painted, and are mounted on horses or kneeling like archers.
The shed over the No.2 pit was built in 1988 and the pit was opened to visitors in October 1994.
The spokesman said it would reopen before May next year. During the repairs, all the relics unearthed will be transferred to the cultural relics exhibition hall of the Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses Museum.
Thirty-four items from an exhibition room near the No. 2 pit have already been removed to the exhibition hall of the museum, where they were on public display. They included a dozen sets of terra-cotta warriors and horses.
Relics that could not be removed from the pit were covered with bamboo mats, said Qian Jing, deputy curator of the museum;
The pit still contained four formations of warriors and horses, most of which were still beneath the soil, and only a small portion of the pit was excavated, said Qian.
The warriors being unearthed there were shattered.
"We have deliberately chosen to carry out the repairs during the November to April period which is a slack season for visitors, and I don't think the repairs will affect tourism much," said Qian.
Qian said the exhibition hall of the museum, where the 34 relics from the No.2 pit are on display, alongside a picture featuring the interior of the No.2 pit.
Wen Hongjun, from central China's Hunan Province, who was visiting the museum on Thursday, said he was a bit disappointed at the closure of the No.2 pit. "I should have been informed of the closure, but it seemed to receive little publicity on the Internet."
Situated in Lintong, a county about 37 km north of Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, the imperial mausoleum was discovered by a group of farmers in 1974 as they were digging an irrigation well.
Archaeologists found 181 major tombs, including the famous terra-cotta warriors and horses pits and unearthed about 1,500 statues from the three surrounding pits. The warriors and horses were believed to have been buried with the emperor to guard him after his death.
The No.1 pit, which forms the three angles of a triangle is the biggest, followed in size by the No.2 and No.3 pits.
The mausoleum was included the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 1987.
Despite international interest in the underground palace, archaeologists suspended excavations in 2003 as they could not protect relics from environmental degradation. So far, only 1,500 terra-cotta warriors and horses have been unearthed, and almost 6,000 items are believed to still lie buried.
(Xinhua News Agency November 2, 2007)