Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

Terra Cotta Warriors and The First Emperor

There were two somewhat different shows this year built around the same powerful army sent abroad by the government of China. Don't panic — this army was made of clay, about 20 life-size figures, a vivid sampling from the thousands of terra cotta soldiers created in the 3rd century B.C. to guard the mausoleum of Qin Shihuangdi, the warrior-king who united China. The location of the First Emperor's vast grave site — 19 square miles (50 sq. km.) — was long known, but the immense ranks of guardian statuary, located in long pits outside the walls of the tomb complex, had been forgotten until 1974, when some farmers stumbled upon them while digging. The emperor expected entertainment as well as security in the afterlife, so he supplied his tomb — and the exhibitions — with terra cotta acrobats and musicians, and a magnificent horse-drawn chariot, haunting artifacts of one man's struggle for immortality.
Terra Cotta Warriors: The Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Ca.; 5/18 – 10/16
The First Emperor: The High Museum of Art, Atlanta; 11/16 – 4/19