Sunday, March 17, 2013

Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Warriors

Today I visited San Francisco's Asian Art Museum because the traveling exhibit of Qin Shi Huang's terracotta army is in town. It's truly an extraordinary thing to see: terracotta archers, cavalry, officers, a general, a chariot drawn by four horses, armor made of limestone tiles and copper, and all kinds of weaponry--swords, arrows, crossbows, and daggers. I had known from reading various articles and watching a National Geographic special or two that there had been various trenches dug with the warriors and horses, armor and weapons placed in them, but one thing I had been clueless about was the fact that there was also a section of acrobats, musicians, and other entertainers, and yet another section that was basically a terracotta zoo. I mean, we are talking an entire compound of "stuff" surrounding the Emperor's burial mound. All of it was then buried in the 3rd century BCE and unearthed totally by accident in the 1970s. (You can read more about it all here.)

It is mind-boggling to think that there were over 8,000 soldiers, and every last one of them is unique.

We weren't allowed to use a flash (actually, I was surprised they let us take photos at all), but the exhibit was dramatically lit and my iPhone does passably well. Here are some of my favorites:









Another thing to bear in mind is that, originally, all of these warriors were painted in vivid colors, but when they were unearthed and exposed to the air, the colors rapidly vanished. So several were recreated digitally to give you a sense of what they looked like when painted (compare to the squatting archer and general, 2nd and 3rd photos, above):







Finally, here is the crane I took a shine to. There's some glare because, unlike the warriors, it was in a glass case.


If this exhibit comes to your city (or nearby), definitely check it out. It'll be time well spent.





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