Last weekend, Martha and I went with her family to see the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in downtown Washington D.C. It’s a special exhibition going on now until the end of March and it showcases the Terra Cotta Warriors, an army of terracotta figures dating back to 210 B.C. and discovered in Xi’an, Shaanzi province, China, in 1974 by farmers digging a well. The army of figures, which include warriors, officials, musicians, horses, and chariots; were built for the mausoleum of the first Qin Emperor (Qin Shihuangdi).
The exhibit prohibits photos but hopefully my written explanation will give you a better idea of what’s in store. The exhibit is separated into two “rooms.” The first contains a lot more of the history of the period with exhibits showing period items, rather than just the warriors themselves, while the second was more of a larger area that held two chariots and five warriors. The first area contained a lot of the history behind the warriors, the Qin Emperor, and some of the incomplete or reconstructed figures, such as the area containing a partially restored strongman and two musicians.
The second area was where you could learn about how each of the figures were made as well as see the full size, completely intact (at least from what we could tell) soldiers. There are hundreds of thousands of these incredibly detailed figures in Xi’an at the mausoleum and it’s amazing how much detail was put into each one.
I visited the mausoleum in Xi’an back around 1995 and I remember going to one of the pits and being blown away with the sheer size of the army. Seeing them up close lets you see how much detail was put into each one of the soldiers, seeing them all lined up in their channels really blows your mind – each one was made by hand by expert craftsmen. It’s a stunning sight.
If you want to learn more about the history, the Terracotta Army wikipedia page is a good place to start. It gives you a good idea of both the soldiers themselves and the location they were found. From there you can dig around to your hearts content.
Hopefully in the next few years I’ll be able to take Martha to see it in person!