Terracotta Warriors Return to Chicago after Thirty Years

More than 2,000 years ago, China’s First Emperor built a burial complex guarded by a large terracotta army, intended to protect him in the afterlife. Now, some of those warriors are making the journey to Chicago’s Field Museum in their latest exhibition.  China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors, opening March 4, 2016. This Exhibition Marks Warriors Return to Chicago First Time in 30 Years.


The exhibition features more than 170 objects including stunning bronze artifacts, weaponry, and ten of the famed terracotta figures. Terracotta Warriors will introduce visitors to Qin Shihuangdi (chin she-wong-dee)—China’s First Emperor—who united a country and built an army to last an eternity.


Main Toamb Mound

China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors was organized by The Field Museum in partnership with the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Terracotta Army Museum of the People’s Republic of China.  Major sponsors: Discover, Exelon.


Site with broken warriors

An Emperor’s Rise to Power and Lasting Influence

One of greatest archeological finds of the 20th century, the terracotta army, was created by Qin Shihuangdi, the First Emperor of China.


Inscribed weight (Quan)

His rise to power in 221 BC ended an era known as the “Warring States” period, during which China was composed of seven competing states, and was marked by instability and broken alliances.  Qin Shihuangdi used an organized military, superior weapon technology, and a strong cavalry to defeat his enemies and establish a unified state. During your visit to the exhibition, you’ll discover crossbow bolts and a reconstructed wooden crossbow. This weapon revolutionized warfare, allowing archers to shoot nearly 900 yards, with less skill and strength than was needed for a bow and arrow. You will also encounter other weapons used by Qin military forces, including a long, chrome-plated sword, lance heads, dagger - axes, and spears.


Warrior heads

Although the First Emperor’s reign was relatively short, he enacted several important innovations that left a lasting impression on China. Many of these are still evident today.


Warrior conservation

He worked to strengthen his newly founded empire by building a great wall (the pre -cursor to China’s “Great Wall”) to protect his land in the north and west. In an effort to increase trade, he constructed new roads and canals and even regulated cart axles so that wheels uniformly fit the newly constructed roads.


Portrait of Emperor Qin Shihuang

In order to rule effectively, a single currency, a standard form of writing, and a standardized system of weights and measures were all put into place. Examples of these innovations are all on display within the exhibition, including several Qin banliang (ban - lee -ang) coins — round coins each with a square hole—as well as a mold used to mass -produce these coins. This coin type became the standard form of Chinese currency for the next 2,000 years.


Stone armor

An Emperor’s Final Resting Place


Even though the Emperor made public improvements in his country, he was not without enemies; three unsuccessful assassination attempts increased his fear of death and drove

his quest for immortality. With death constantly on the Emperor’s mind, and a desire to rule forever, Qin Shihuangdi began constructing a palace for his afterlife and instructed craftsman to make a terracotta army to protect him after his death.


For more than 30 years, legions of workers contributed to this massive undertaking — some even paying with their life. Around this underground palace were representations of the Emperor’s officials, warriors, buildings, parks, and animals —everything he would need to carry on his rule without end. The First Emperor even included what are believed to be acrobats, musicians, and exotic animals in his tomb to provide entertainment.


After the Emperor’s death, the terracotta warriors, generals, and others lay buried until 1974, when a farmer digging a well discovered them. Although the tomb itself was known historically and was visible on the landscape, the vast burial complex surrounding the site had been unknown until then. Archaeologists began work excavating the site, a process that continues today. Hundreds of pits, covering an area of nearly 22 square miles, have been located so far, and it is estimated that more than 8,000 figures were buried at the site.


Terracotta Warriors has nine full - size human figures, including several warriors, a general, an acrobat, and an official, on display as well as one life - size horse. Although most of the clay figures have lost the bright hues of their original paint and only provide faded glimpses of the way the army looked during the Emperor’s lifetime, you will encounter two replica warriors, painted in the vivid purple, teal, and red that the terracotta army wore.


View of Pit no. 1

Excavations continue today, but the central tomb of Qin Shihuangdi remains sealed. Stories tell of a celestial ceiling mapped out in pearls and a mercury river, but none of these written accounts have been confirmed. Visitors to the exhibition will learn about the scientific investigations hoping to shed light on the mysteries of the tomb.


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


Visit  Field Museum for prices and to purchase tickets. Special rates available for tour operators and groups of 10 or more. Call our Group Sales office toll - free at 888.FIELD.85 (888.343.5385).


 Photos: Courtesy of the Field Museum

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