Exhibition Packs In Crowds As Over 15,000 Visitors See Famous Qin Dynasty Warriors Over Thanksgiving Weekend
China’s Terra Cotta Army, discovered near Xi’an, Shaanxi Province in 1974, is one of the country’s most iconic archaeological finds, a symbol of its ancient imperial past. Recently, around 30 of the more than 7,000 warriors (most of which have yet to be excavated) went on a four-city US tour — the largest touring exhibition of the soldiers ever — which just opened in Washington D.C. at the National Geographic Museum.
Buried for more than 2,000 years until their accidental discovery by Chinese farmers in 1974, the world-famous terra cotta warriors — a life-size militia of about 7,000 clay figures created to protect China’s first emperor in the afterlife — have arrived in Washington. Well, 15 of the 1,000 or so that have been unearthed, along with more than 100 related artifacts from the grave site of Qin Shihuangdi (259-210 B.C.) in Shaanxi province.
On view through March 31 at the National Geographic Museum, the last stop on a four-city U.S. tour, “Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor” is the first time this many of the figures have traveled to the States. What’s more, according to museum director Susan Norton, museum-goers here will be able to get within a few feet of the warriors, far closer than even at the original archaeological site, where visitors look down on the burial pits from a distance.
Cultural and archaeological exchanges between the US and China are nothing new, and this is not the first time that Terra Cotta Warriors have taken a US tour, but the scale of this traveling exhibition is far larger than any that preceded it, indicating that China is becoming more comfortable with sending its relics overseas — perhaps with the aim of “art diplomacy” in mind. From VOA News:
Xie Feng, a diplomat at China’s embassy in Washington, spoke at the exhibit’s press preview. He referred to President Barack Obama’s visit to Beijing, which was taking place on the same day.
“President Obama’s visit to China is historic and so is too this exhibit. Their coincidence is auspicious sign of further developments of U.S-China cultural exchange of mutual understanding and friendship.”
Susan Norton, Director of the National Geographic Museum, says the show is already a success. “It is beyond our wildest dreams. As of this morning we sold over 96,000 tickets. This is unheard of,” she said.
The Terra Cotta Army will be on display through the end of March, 2010.