“Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor” is currently on display at Discovery Times Square, and is certainly one exhibition history enthusiasts should not miss.
The exhibit features the world-famous terracotta warriors and other relics from the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the emperor who united China in the 2nd century B.C.E. In 1974, farmers in rural China discovered an entire army of life-sized terracotta figures, including thousands of individual soldiers in the emperor’s tomb. The exhibit displays around 200 treasures from the tomb of the First Emperor and other ancient Chinese tombs.
The tour begins with a collection of smaller relics from a middle class tomb of the period just before the Emperor’s ascent to power. These relics, including bowls and other household items, provide a sense of the culture in which Qin Shi Huang grew up.
When the terracotta warriors first make their appearance the effect is impressive. The size of the warriors is surprising; each warrior is 6 feet tall and comes equipped for his specific role in the army. Life-sized horses and chariots, lit dramatically, tower over the viewer from pedestals. The display also includes some modern reconstructions painted in bright colors to show what the warriors looked like when they were first buried.
Facts and figures about the emperor’s life, regime, and tomb accompany the warriors. Mirrored walls mimic the river of mercury that flowed through the tomb. Perhaps the most interesting addition is the short video in which the farmer who discovered the tomb describes the experience. Also in the video, the first archaeologist onsite shares the sense of wonder he felt when he first saw the rows and rows of warriors.
The central section of the exhibit showcases the warriors and other relics found in the tomb of Qin Shi Huang. The final section, like the first, provides further historical context by showcasing relics from the following dynasty. Qin Shi Huang’s immediate successors were unable to maintain their hold on the empire he built and control passed to another dynasty that was similar in political and cultural structure.
This dynasty, however, did not build as elaborate tombs as did Qin Shi Huang. These emperors were buried with much smaller figurines (about 2 feet tall) representing their armies, as well as figurines of domesticated animals and household items. This section runs the risk of being unimpressive, especially compared to the life-sized warriors of the previous section.
However, the most affecting moment of the whole exhibition is found in this section. Some of the smaller figurines are back lit so that their shadows are as large as the figures in Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. The effect is quite impressive.
The entire exhibit is both impressive and informative. “Terracotta Warriors” is hosted in conjunction with New York’s China Institute, which provides a deeper understanding of China. The exhibit certainly provides a broader understanding of Chinese history, particularly of the period of unification. History enthusiasts and those interested in Chinese culture will particularly enjoy the exhibit, but there is certainly something for everyone.
“Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor” is on display at Discovery Times Square through August 26. Regular ticket prices are $19.50-$27, but TicketNews readers can save up to 20 percent off ticket face values when they use the Terracotta Warriors discount code TNewsTCW.
“Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor” is open now through August 26. Hours of operation Sunday-Thursday are 10:00 a.m. through 8:00 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. through 9:00 p.m.