Fierce Xian warriors stationed temporarily at Museum of Art

By Kate Kellogg
News and Information Services

Two ancient, life-sized terra-cotta Chinese warriors and a war horse have journeyed from a pit in Xian, China, to the Museum of Art where they now stand guard in the West Gallery.

Starting tomorrow (Nov. 17), the public may view these clay representatives of the powerful army that helped unify China in 221 B.C. The exhibition, “The Invincible and Immortal Army: Warriors from Xian” will remain through Jan. 17.

The sculptures were made more than 2,200 years ago for Emperor Cheng, a ruthless and extravagant ruler who established China’s first centralized government. The figures on display are from an infantry regiment of nearly 7,500 clay soldiers and horses, unearthed in 1974 in China’s most important archaeological excavation of the 20th century. This is the first Western appearance of the warriors since the 1989 suppression of the democracy movement.

The soldiers were modeled in clay in separate parts, fired, joined and painted in red, black, blue, white and yellow. Their hands were formed to hold original bronze weapons. Averaging about 73 inches in height, the soldiers vary in facial features and are possibly portraits of actual soldiers, according to Marshall Wu, curator of Asian art at the museum.

“Standing steadfast and alert, these warriors bear witness to the powerful army which helped to unify China,” Wu says. “This exhibition is a rare opportunity for the people of this community to view these phenomenal relics of ancient China and muse at the epic and grandiose history of the great empire.”

The exhibition was made possible by a special arrangement between the government of Shaanxi province, home of the Xian burial pits, and the Museum of Art. In exchange for the loan of the warriors, three museum directors from Xian will participate in a modern museum practice training seminar here during the course of the exhibition.

“We look forward to making this the first in a series of ongoing collaborative projects with our sister institutions in the People’s Republic of China,” says Museum Director William J. Hennessey.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum will host two special events. The video “Xian,” an hour-long film tracing the cultural history of the ancient Chinese imperial city of Xian, will be shown Nov. 25 at noon in the museum’s Audiovisual (AV) Room. An hour-long lecture, “The Invincible and Immortal Army: The Terra-cotta Warriors of Xian,” will be delivered by Wu Dec. 3 at noon in the AV Room. Both events are free and open to the public.

The museum is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday and 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Sunday and closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission is free.


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.