Terracotta Warriors-Asian Art Museum

Two weeks ago I went to the exposition of the Terracotta Warriors in the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

General Terracotta Warrior. 

The elaborate underground palaces and formidable terracotta army of China’s First Emporor, buried for more than 2,000 years, are perhaps the most mysterious of the most staggering monuments in history built to immortality and the afterlife, like the Egyptian Pyramids and  the Tay Mahal.
Accidentally unearthed by farmers in 1974 in the province of Shaanxi in China, the burial site is a startling archeological discovery. The sprawling burial complex spans more than four American football fields, with an army of more than 7,000 life-size terracotta warriors buried throughout the site.

The warriors themselves demonstrate extraordinary

                                                                       Kneeling archer.

technology for the time. Each figure consists of multiple parts created from molds and coiling method, which artisans/potters meticulously sealed together and mounted on clay platforms. Facial features were hand-carved, and not two are identical. Their uniforms include startlingly realistic, minute details appropriate to each warrior’s rank. Graphics illustrate how vibrant and lifelike the warriors appeared in their original paint, based on scientific analysis of the preserved pigments.
Thirty nine years after the excavation began it is not yet complete. The emperor’s tomb remains un-opened , and its contents a secret.

The exhibition traces the major life events of the emperor, Qin Shihuang (259-210BCE), who

A clay warrior horse.

rose to power at age 13. After a series of bloody military campaigns, he declared himself emperor and unified rival states into a single nation, an enormous undertaking that laid the foundation for modern-day China. New roads and canals connected provinces, the Great wall built to protect the nation. A standardized currency inspired the growth of commerce. Coins minted under the First Emperor remained the shape of currency in China until 1911.  Other radical innovations enforced by the emperor like new legal codes, a uniform writing system, architectural components, established the infrastructure for the contemporary China culture.

The Emperor’s reign is a subject of controversy. He has been cast as hero and as tyrant, credited with China’s unification but also criticized for acts of brutality.



Excavated bronze life-size Swan and Crane bird.

This is a roof tile end with Phoenix design. It reflects a religious belief. Their primary ancestor was the “heavenly” bird the Phoenix. The bird represents a deity, corresponding to “yang” energy.


This is a ceremonial sword, which is one of the most important goldsmith Qin-state finds, unearthed from an aristocratic tomb. It probably belonged to a chief commander, who would ask a god for victory in war. The hilt’s design consists of stylized dragons and serpents with embedded turquoise, and its iron blade and gold hilt were cast separately. The granulated style evolved from metal-ware of nomadic people beyond the northern grasslands.