A couple of weekends ago, I had the good fortune to be presented with two tickets to go and see the First Emperor exhibition at the British Museum in London. As many of you will already know, this exhibition displays the famous terracotta warriors discovered in 1974 in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China. The exhibit is, however, much more than that. It traces the history of the First Qin Emperor of China, from his birth, through the Warring States period which saw him defeat the rival nations and cement a single, autocratic rule over the country, to his architectural and political reforms, including the building of what would become the Great Wall of China, and concluding by considering his terror of death and preoccupation with immortality that led to the construction of the funerary army which has become so famous (wall-projected films make this mammoth subject easy to absorb). However, it is the terracotta warriors that take centre stage - no matter how interesting the examples of late Qin roofing tiles or sewage pipes, I was there to see big stone soldiers!
A half dozen of the individual figures were here, representing generals, archers and infantrymen. Accompanying these were statues of the clerks, animals and entertainers that were also interred with the army. The pièce de résistance, though, was the chariot. A full, 4-horse chariot with driver (the chariot being a modern recreation, while the horses and man were originals) - it was a truly jaw-dropping sight. There was also a replica of one of the archers, painted up as the whole collection would have originally been, and the image of the ranks and ranks of troops all with their own unique and vivid decoration and dress is overwhelming. In fact, the exhibition was so inspiring that I borrowed a copy of Soldiers of the Dragon the next day back at work!
The exhibition runs until the 6th April at the British Museum in London, and is well worth seeing! Be warned, though, that it is very popular, and is likely to be packed out!
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