China’s terra cotta warriors to stand guard at the MIA

Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, was not a guy to go quietly into that dark night.

In fact having made so made many enemies in his lifetime, he thought it necessary to bring an army with him into the afterlife.


The tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, is surrounded by four pits filled with terra cotta warriors, horses, and chariots.

MPR Photo/Marianne Combs

The emperor had over 8,000 warriors and 600 horses made out of clay and buried in the expanse surrounding his tomb. They are known today as the “Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses”, and next fall a contingent of them will make their way to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The exhibition will feature over 120 rare objects from the First Emperor’s burial site, including ten of the warriors and horses. The selection represents all major types of figures found from the pits: an armored general, a military officer, an infantryman, a kneeling archer, a cavalryman, a light infantryman, a standing archer, a charioteer, cavalry and chariot horses.


The terra cotta warriors each differ in facial expression and physical characteristics. Each statue was constructed to be unique.

Photo: Peter Morgan, Wikimedia Commons

What makes these figures so interesting is the realism and detail put into the figures – they each have distinct characteristics and facial expressions – a stunning feat for a project so large in size.

MIA was one of the first museums outside of China to feature these figures in a small display held in 1985. Even now, Chinese archaeologists continue to dig up figures, and have yet to open up the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, in anticipation of new technologies that will help preserve what’s found inside.

“Return of the Warriors: China’s First Emperor and his ghost army” will be on view October 27, 2012 through January 20, 2013.