Friday, June 29, 2012

Discovery Times Square: Terracotta Warriors

Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China's First Emperor is one two
current exhibitions at the Discovery Times Square. 
Discovery Times Square entrance along 44th Street.
This officer's serious expression and his height convey his authority.
When excavated, he stood on a command chariot. The palm of his left
hand once rested on the handle of a long sword. His armor consists of
the smallest, most flexible and expensive "fish-scale" plates, and it is
tied with prominent knotted bows at the front, shoulders and back which
denote his high military rank.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
Ever since it opened in 2009 I've been visiting the Discovery Times Square exhibition center annually. Initially I did not plan to visit either of the two current exhibitions but because I haven't been feeling well and because it was near my hotel in a cool space, I thought my time would be better spent there actually doing something rather than just waiting restlessly for housekeeping to service my hotel room. So I'm here today at the Terracotta Warriors exhibit which runs until August 26th.

I've seen pictures of these artifacts so ultimately it was interesting to learn about them and see them in person. Advertised as "direct from China" visitors take a look back to the days of China's first emperor, before and after his epic rule. These life-size soldiers are displayed alongside a collection of over 200 treasures and artifacts from ancient China.

Over 2,000 years ago, these soldiers were buried in the emperor's tomb to serve him in the afterlife. But after being exhumed in the late 20th century they are now making a march across the globe in one exhibitions after another. Only nine of the estimated 8,000 figures found in Xian in central China are on display. They are fine examples fitted out with weapons, armor, livestock and more.

Above and below: Emperor Gaozu's Cavalry. 
The cavalry figures are in two sizes, possibly representing the two different
functions for cavalry described in historic text of the period. This group of
smaller figures could have been intended for speedy penetration of the
opposing army's flanks, while the other cavalry unit may have been used for
frontal attacks on the enemy formation.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
They serve Ying Zheng, born in 259 B.C., who began to rule at the age of 13 and bestowed upon himself the title of Qin Shihuangdi, or First Emperor of Qin (China). Having a keen eye towards the future, he planned on his afterlife. By the time he died at 50, his tomb was still in the making and completed after 40 years which included the commission of an army of soldiers.

What makes each warrior unusual is that each is not only dressed by rank, the uniforms are individually customized and each of their faces different so no two look alike. The army was discovered in 1974 in Xian when farmers were sinking a well and hit pottery fragments. The digging continues today around the Terra-Cotta Museum which now stands on the site.

Interesting notes from the exhibit: "The alluring qualities of mercury made it a popular element for art and medicine in ancient China. Mercury occurs naturally in cinnabar, a red mineral ore, which was used not only as a brilliant pigment, but also as an ingredient in "longevity" medicines taken by the First Emperor. Ironically, it is believed by some that Qin Shihuangdi died from mercury poison as a result of taking these 'Elixirs of Life'." More text from the exhibition accompanies the photos in this post.

Visit for more information. Discovery Times Square is located at 226 West 44th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenues in Manhattan, New York City. Tickets priced at $19.50-$27. Hours: Sun-Thu 10am-8pm; Fri and Sat 10am-9pm.

Calvary soldiers rode horses like this one, which has a saddle showing
ornamental studs, and a secure girth strap and crupper (stirrups were not
invented until centuries later). The head shows details such as flared
nostrils, skin creases around the wide-open eyes, ears pitched forward
Hairstyles: The figures display relatively intricate hairstyles, with many
variations. Soldiers of the same rank appear to wear their hair in similar
fashion, although there are small differences in the twists of the knots and
the ribbons used to tie them.  
Life-sized water birds were found in what appears to be the tomb's garden.
Soldiers were built from the bottom up. The platform and shoes were made
from one solid piece. Legs could be either made of solid clay or built from
coils of clay. While the hollow torsos were built up by hand (with coils), the
arms and heads were cast separately, in molds, which were available in a
few basic types. Clay paste was used to cement together the different parts.
The artisans then covered the heads and bodies with a thin layer of clay and
used wooden tools to add all the individual details by hand, from hair to
costume to fingernails.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)


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