Terracotta Warriors to invade Chicago again

Updated: 2015-11-25 10:39


HEZI JIANG in Chicago

(China Daily USA)

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A terracotta general is returning to Chicago after 35 years with new troops: an infantryman, a kneeling archer, an armored standing archer, an armored charioteer, a cavalryman, a civil official, an acrobat, a stableman and a horse.

The 10 ancient clay figures will be featured at the Field Museum's coming exhibition China's First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors from March 2016 to January 2017.

More than 160 terracotta objects, made of bronze, jade, ceramic and stone, also will be shown at the exhibition to illustrate the story of the Warring States period and the tale of Qin Shi Huang, first emperor of a unified China.

Interactive media, including video, large-scale graphics and touch walls, also will be part of the exhibition.

"It's not a period that we've been commonly taught in our school system, although I think many of our elementary schools are now including ancient China in the ancient civilizations curriculum," Deborah Bekken, adjunct curator, told China Daily.

"We are hoping that people will come away from the exhibition with more appreciation of Chinese history," she said.

The Field Museum began planning the warriors' return with the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center five years ago, according to the content team, which handpicked all the artifacts for the exhibition.

"We got some unique pieces that are not even on display at the museums in Shaanxi," said Zhang Lu, a researcher on the content team.

The Terracotta Warriors and horses, which date back more than 2,200 years, are life-sized clay sculptures that were buried with the first emperor of China to protect him in his afterlife. The figures were discovered by farmers outside of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, in 1974 while they were sinking a well.

Six of the estimated 8,000 figures entombed in Shaanxi made their first trip to Chicago in 1980 as part of a broader show about China at the Field Museum. The same general was one of them.

The Terracotta Army also was displayed at the National Geographic Museum in Washington in 2009, and at the Indianapolis Children's Museum in 2014.

"The Terracotta Army was one of the most important archeological sites discovered during the 20th century. It's so unique," Bekken said.

The Field Museum is also home to the Cyrus Tang Hall of China, a 350-artifact permanent exhibition that opened in June. It is the largest American exhibition on Chinese history and culture from an anthropological perspective.

The museum has collected 33,000 objects from China since the early 1900s, starting with Berthold Laufer, America's first sinologist and curator of anthropology. It is also the home to the body of Su-Lin, the first panda that was ever kept outside of China.