For the first time, Cincinnatians will be able to see an important part of China’s history. The pieces from the “Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China” exhibit will premiere April 20 at the Cincinnati Art Museum. The collection is currently at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and is drawing in large crowds.

So, what’s so special about the Terracotta Army? “Bringing this exhibit here has been several years in the making,” says Jill Dunne, director of marketing and communications at the Cincinnati Art Museum. “This is the greatest archeological discovery in the 20th century.”

The Terracotta Army’s story begins with Ying Zheng, who was the first emperor of China in 221 B.C. His army defeated other regional states and unified the country. He implemented fundamental cultural, political and economic reforms and established the core territory of China.

In 1974 a farmer was digging a well outside of the city of Xi’an when he struck something that turned out to be very important to Chinese history.

He discovered pottery shards and bronze arrows near the mausoleum of Ying Zheng. As people continued to investigate, it was discovered that there were 8,000 Terracotta warriors buried in the ground. The emperor created these warriors, starting in the Pre-Qin period (770-221 BC) to the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC). He built these warriors in preparation for his death. “He knew that he needed them for the afterlife,” says Dunne.

A few Cincinnatians took a trip to China at the beginning of January to see firsthand where these warriors were found.

“We were able to meet with experts that work on the site they were found,” says Dunne. “We were really immersed in the history.”

The exhibit will show more than just a few warriors. It will also include 120 individual objects, which include terracotta figures of warriors, arms and armor, ritual bronze vessels, works in gold and silver, jade ornaments, precious jewelry, and ceramics. The exhibit will also include a cavalry horse.

These objects were all drawn from the collections of art museums and archaeological institutes in Shaanxi province, China. The exhibit also considers works of art from the Qin’s neighboring states that tell the story of the nomadic peoples of northwestern China.

“We do have to use timed ticketing to ensure that people get the time they need to look at the full exhibit,” says Dunne. “We are also offering a special tour during Saturday and Sunday hours.”

This exhibit includes an interactive activity and family and gallery guides that will be held within the museum throughout the spring and summer. Events associated with the exhibit include Art After Dark on Friday, April 27, 5-7 p.m.; Family First Saturday: Explore China on May 2, 2017, 12-4 p.m.; and the Fourth Annual Cincinnati Asian Art Society Lecture. This specific lecture will focus on the Terracotta Army on May 6, 2018 at 2 p.m.


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