China's First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors at The Field Museum

China's First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors at The Field Museum
Site with Broken Warriors After a farmer inadvertently unearthed the head of a Terracotta Warrior in 1974, archaeologists began to excavate the site. Most of the figures were broken into 60-80 pieces and needed to be put back together by conservators. Photo: © Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.

An amazing discovery—almost stranger than fiction–took place over 40 years ago when a farmer, digging a well in his field, discovered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century—a necropolis (prehistoric burial ground) created for China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi (pronounced, chin she-wong-dee), as a place he could continue to rule in the afterlife.

Soon after the discovery, archaeologists began work excavating the site–a process that continues today–discovering hundreds of pits, covering an area of nearly 22 square miles. It is estimated that more than 8,000 figures were buried at the site.

Significantly taller than average men of the time, around 7,000 of these 6-feet and taller warriors were found buried in three pits. Although they originally held bronze weapons, most of the valuables were looted from the tomb following the First Emperor’s death. Photo: © Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.

Significantly taller than average men of the time, around 7,000 of these 6-feet and taller warriors were found buried in three pits. Although they originally held bronze weapons, most of the valuables were looted from the tomb following the First Emperor’s death. Photo: © Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.

These terrcacotta figures, dating back over 2000 years, mark China’s first Emperor’s rise to power in 221 BC effectively ending an era known as the “Warring States” period, a time when China was composed of seven competing states and was marked by instability and broken alliances.

China’s First Emperor unified the land that would one day be known as “China” and protected it by constructing the first Great Wall (the pre-cursor to China’s “Great Wall”). Among his many other projects, including the construction of new roads, canals and regulated cart axles, was his vast army of Terracotta Warriors.

These Terracotta Warriors are now on view for the first time in 30 years on their only American stop, at Chicago’s Field Museum in the blockbuster exhibition, China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors (through January 8, 2017).

The exhibition features more than 170 objects including stunning bronze artifacts, weaponry, and ten of the famed terracotta figures.

Field Museum President and CEO Richard Lariviere calls the opportunity to see these figures “a once in a lifetime experience.”

Upon entering the exhibition make sure to watch the 5-minute video that will equip you with an overview of the history behind China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors.

Highlights of the exhibition include amazingly detailed sculptures of the Terracotta Warriors, from the highest-ranking generals to the lowliest foot soldiers–each with uniquely sculpted individual faces.

© Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Each warrior has a unique face and hairstyle due to different molds and details added by hand post-construction. In addition to beards and mustaches, workers also shaped a variety of hairstyles on the figures, including plaits, French rolls, and buns. Photo: Promotion Center and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.

© Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Each warrior has a unique face and hairstyle due to different molds and details added by hand post-construction. In addition to beards and mustaches, workers also shaped a variety of hairstyles on the figures, including plaits, French rolls, and buns. Photo: Promotion Center and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.

In addition to the 6’4″ generals and foot soldiers guarding the Emperor’s tomb are what are believed to be acrobats, musicians, and exotic animals for the Emperor’s afterlife entertainment.

Other highlights include a detailed life-size horse; two replica warriors, painted in the vivid purple, teal, and red that the terracotta army wore; a portrait of Emperor Qin Shihuang; a beautiful life-sized replica of a Chariot being pulled by horses and Qin banliang (ban-lee-ang) coins—round coins with square holes—a coin type that became the standard form of Chinese currency for the next 2,000 years.

This beautifully curated exhibition is one you won’t want to miss.

Tickets

Tickets to China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors are included in the blockbuster-priced Discovery and All-Access passes to the Museum. Special discounts available for Chicago residents.

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