Sunday, 25 January 2009

Terracotta Warriors of Qin

I went to see the Terracotta Warriors of Qin (pronounced "Chin") today. This exhibition is a private collection of original artifacts from the Qin dynasty (221BC-206BC) and 43 replicas of the Terracotta Army. The remains of this army were discovered in March 1974 by two Chinese farmers who were digging a well and stumbled upon some terracotta ruins. These were the first of three pits containing the Terracotta Army, including over 8,000 soldiers and 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.

The original warriors were built to protect the tomb of the first emperor of unified China, Qin Shi Huang (259BC-210BC). He came to power when he was just 13 and achieved a lot to unify the seven states of China during his short, somewhat tyrannical reign. He also created a common currency, some laws, roads, among other things. Many original coins (round with a square hole in them) were on display, along with original swords, daggers, and artifacts from the time.

Here are some facts I learned from my visit today:
  • each replica warrior weighs approximately 180kg
  • the terracotta horse replica weighs 200kg
  • combined, the 43 warriors on display weighs a massive 10,000kg. Tests had to be carried out on the room (upstairs in the St James Theatre in Wellington) to ensure the floor was strong enough to hold the exhibition.
  • each replica was handmade by artesans at a Chinese museum.
The original warriors were coated with a lacquer finish then painted in quite garish colours. It appears that the army made its own uniforms, so colour and style varied greatly, even among the terracotta warriors. Upon contact with air, the lacquer quickly disintegrated, removing the paint and revealing the original terracotta underneath. Here are some recreations of what the ancient paint jobs might have looked like:

The warrior replicas and horse were lined up in formation. The scene was impressive enough with only 43 warriors, let alone imagining more than 8000!

Once again, I didn't have my camera with me, so these photos were taken on my trusty phone, which explains why the quality varies. I think it will be quite some time before I'll be able to see the real Terracotta Army in China. In the meantime, I can highly recommend checking out the replicas while they are on show in Wellington (until the end of February 2009).

Oh, and on the way out, there was a small table with a box saying that if you write your contact details on the back of your ticket that you will be in with a chance to win a trip for two to Hong Kong or Shanghai. Now, how could I resist a competition? ;-)


Anonymous said...

you know the pictures turned out pretty good! I am so jealous right now! :)

Kelly said...

What an awesome exhibition!

Where would you prefer to go, Shanghai or Hong Kong?

Café Chick said...

Ooh, good question, Kelly. Having been to neither place, I'd happily go anywhere! Now, here I am thinking as though I've already won it ... it's not quite a dilemma, yet!

Sab said...

Ooh, that is fabulous! I'd love to see that! I hope you win that trip... ;)

Sab said...

Double comment here...
I have a couple of awards for you!