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Terracotta Warriors 兵马俑 테라코타 전사

on July 15, 2011

Been wanting to catch the Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and His Legacy exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum running from 24 Jun 2011 – 16 Oct 2011.

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Clay mates

China’s terracotta warriors invade Singapore

Thousands of warriors, exotic animals, and even an entertainment troupe – no one gets a send-off the way China’s first emperor did. Even in death.

One can glean as much from Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor & His Legacy, an ongoing exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum. The show, comprising 100 artefacts loaned from some 12 museums from China’s Shaanxi province, marks the first time authentic – not replica – pieces of the famous terracotta warriors will be shown in Singapore and the region.

Terracotta Warriors is also complemented by Life After Death, an adjacent exhibition by Singaporean artist Justin Lee featuring his familiar pop art-rendered versions of the warriors previously seen at the National Museum Of Singapore. A free downloadable iPhone app also lets viewers interact with the exhibition by way of augmented reality.

While there are only 10 of these grand clay life-sized sculptures on display – a result of the Chinese government’s recent decision to limit the numbers of figures to be loaned for any single show – the complementary artefacts attempt to make up for the lack of visual impact by way of contextualising.

Accidentally discovered in 1974 outside Xi’an by a group of peasants attempting to dig a well, archeologists have now unearthed 1,900 of an estimated 8,000 unique, life-sized clay figures of soldiers and horses.

The pits from which the warriors were dug up are part of Emperor Shi Huangdi’s massive tomb complex stretching over an area of 56.25 sq km. The mausoleum itself – built by an estimated 700,000 people and approximately the area of two football fields – has yet to be excavated. “There’s an aura of mystery that surrounds it,” said Kan Shuyi, museum assistant curator and co-curator of the show.

Divided into three sections, the exhibition begins with a look at the pre-dynastic reign of Shi Huangdi and ends with a sampling of artefacts from the Han Dynasty that followed.

In the peripheries of China proper, the Qin Kingdom was initially looked down upon by the then-dominant kingdom of Zhou and known mostly for breeding horses for the latter’s kings, said Kan.

But as the delicately ornate pieces, including an exquisite ceremonial dagger with a gold and turquoise hilt, reveal, these uncouth, uncivilised horse breeders were apparently anything but.

“Their craftsmanship and aesthetic levels were very high,” said Kan.

The select pieces on display here, which include a larger-than-normal general, a charioteer, an infantryman and a horse, among others, weigh between 150kg and 200kg each. And while the pieces are mass-produced in makeshift local as well as palace kilns, Kan pointed out the great attention to detail that make each piece virtually unique.

Emperor Shi died in 210 BC at the young age of 49 but, preoccupied as he was with the idea of immortality and life after death, construction of the tomb complex began even before the dynasty was established – at the very beginning of his kingdom of lowly “horsebreeders”.

Remarked Kan: “It’s a very massive entourage for the afterlife.”

– Photo & Article: Courtesy of TODAY online

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Found this clip from youtube featuring the preview of the Terracotta Warriors.

For more background information on the significance of Terracotta Warriors as part of the burial tomb of Qin Shi Wang, do watch this National Geographic documentary.

Behind the scenes on the preparation of The First Emperor’s Terracotta Army exhibition at the British Museum. Lots of arrangements had to be made to accommodate the weight and height of the Terracotta warriors and horses. It’s impressive how the British Museum converted its magnificent reading room into the main gallery for The First Emperor’s Terracotta Army exhibition.

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