On November 18, 2009, I was privileged to be among 55 pre-opening attendees invited to see the Terra Cotta Warrior Exhibit at the National Geographic Museum. The Exhibit officially opened to the public ticket holders on November 19. The National Geographic Museum
is the final stop on a two-year U.S. tour of Terra Cotta Warriors
The exhibition showcases 15 life-size terra cotta figures, including nine warriors, and 100 sets of objects, including weapons, stone armor, coins, jade ornaments, roof tiles and decorative bricks, and a bronze crane and swan. Among the display, there are 20 "Level 1" artifacts -- China's highest possible ranking in terms of rarity and importance.
The Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 in the eastern suburbs of Xi'an
Province by local farmers drilling a water well 1.5 miles east of Lishan
The Terracotta Army is a form of funerary art
buried with the First Emperor of Qin
(Qin Shi Huang, Shi Huang means the first emperor) in 210-209 BC (he declared himself the first emperor of China in 221 BC to the end of his life in 210 BC).
Their purpose of producing the warriors was to help rule another empire with Shi Huang Di in the afterlife. Consequently, they are also sometimes referred to as "Qin's Armies." In addition to the warriors, an entire man-made necropolis for the emperor has been excavated.
According to the historian Sima Qian
(145-90 BC) construction of this mausoleum began in 246 BC and involved 700,000 workers. Qin Shi Huang was thirteen when construction began (he specifically stated that no two soldiers were to be made alike, which is most likely why he had construction started at that young age).
Each is different. Upon completion, the terracotta figures were placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty. The tomb of Shi Huang Di is under an earthen pyramid 76 meters tall and nearly 350 square meters. The tomb remains unopened, in the hope that it will remain intact. Only a portion of the site is presently excavated.
© Sam Markman Photography