The Terracotta Army. A discovery that is described as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ and not only is it one of the best archaeological finds of the 20th Century, it is also the largest of its kind. Consisting of 8,000 life size statues, including soldiers, 130 chariots, 670 horses, musicians, acrobats and much more; extraordinarily, no two are the same. In 2015, over 5 million tourists visited the site in Xi’an, China where the lost army was discovered and unearthed in 1974; and now for a limited time only, these treasures can be seen with your own eyes and they’re right on your door step. No replicas and no glass cases, come face to face with the terracotta warriors. At the World Museum in Liverpool, this special exhibition uncovers 2,000 years of Chinese history and unlocks the mystery of this vanished and forgotten empire.
The museum exhibited this special showcase with pride, by decorating the main entrance and the walk way towards the exhibition with a trail of traditional red Chinese lanterns, which created an exciting atmosphere. What was even more thrilling was the very large and lively queue of tourists of all ages, from many areas around Britain and America and a range of backgrounds. Visitors were given a thorough introduction from a member of the World Museum, who shared some interesting information on how the museum has had to change the temperature of the environment for the terracotta statues to be maintained and for preservation purposes: they must be kept at a specific cool temperature with circulating air (I recommend bringing a jacket!). He also shared that the shipping cost of the terracottas from China to the UK, was precisely £5.6million.
The first section of the showcase was a charming short film which represented how China’s history has sculpted its modern world today, which was uniquely projected onto a 3D holographic screen constructed with multiple diamond shapes. Credit to the digital screening and technical team for creating such a quirky, futuristic and original way of portraying China’s equally innovative and diverse society.
The next room did not disappoint, as visitors were faced with two large double doors that synchronously opened and the first terracotta figure was stood facing directly at the doorway. This was an impressive dramatic feature. Upon first seeing the statues, visitors are confounded by the accuracy of their real-life size.
As the exhibition moved forward it began to give us an insight into the conflict between ancient Chinese dynasties. The exhibition achieved this with the use of red lighting to create quite a dark and scary ambience, alongside with animations of warfare with sword sound effects and also authentic, angry, fast pace Chinese music which added to the tensions of war. A useful way of developing viewers’ understanding of the conflict was a nifty digital map of ancient China which enacted the growth of the Qin and Han dynasties by spreading across the map with a blood like effect. The room was also filled with smaller artefacts, such as the Zhong bells, a religious musical instrument. This helped visitors learn about both the conflicts in China and also the cultural traditions that were practised at the time.
In between each section were some very grand entrances to the proceeding rooms, and the World Museum staff deserve the highest commendation for coordinating the exhibition with such impressive features that really reflected ancient Chinese culture. For example, the entrance to the fourth section was a beautiful moon gate archway painted red with a decorative Chinese design. This was followed by a huge portrait of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, on a white flowing sheet that gracefully hung from the ceiling.
Behind the painting and in the centre of the room was a bronze chariot which filled most of the space. Visitors were able to walk around the whole display to get a good perspective from all angles, and a spotlight added extra shine to the bronze which made a glowing effect to make sure it was the centre of attention.
The final room usefully started with some images of the excavation of the terracotta army in 1974 and some blue prints of where the construction was underground. However, the star of the show was undoubtedly the wall of warriors. At the end of the room were seven terracotta army warriors in a row, facing the crowd. They were placed on their own pedestals and each had their own spotlight above them and were effectively situated in front of a plain black background, a combination that really made them stand out.
The overall impression of the exhibition was that the terracotta warriors are absolutely timeless. Judging them at a face to face view point, each one stood so majestic and solemn yet they fulfil their role as warriors, as they appear fearsome and have such a powerful persona. The height and proportions were immaculately precise and each of the warriors had their own individual and exquisite detail to their faces. It was also a pleasant surprise to see that they were in beautiful condition, as there were no cracks or dents or any sign of wear. This can make anyone immediately forget that they are in fact over two thousand years old, as they were an array of perpetuity and will always be ahead of their time.
I highly recommend taking a trip to World Museum Liverpool for the opportunity to marvel at these amazing treasures. Tickets are £13 and can be found on the museum website.