The Terracotta Army


The Terracotta Army has come to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and it’s awesome. The figures are over 2,000 years old, mostly undamaged and full of exquisite detail. They’re big too! I expected them to be much shorter, based on the size of the clothing I saw during the exhibit for The Forbidden City.

The emperor with his chariot is the first thing you see in the exhibit. It’s a reproduction due to the extensive damage of the real chariots, but it was a great way to begin the tour of the army intended to accompany China’s First Emperor into the afterlife.

The army itself is a variety of military and civil positions, from the general to the infantry. These are the real army and not replicas.

Each face is different! I didn’t notice that until I read it on one of the information plaques. The hair, ears, and hands were all different as well. Not as much, but it was still noticeable. The shoes varied depending on the importance of the soldier.

The army was made in pieces, which were then joined together and colored to represent actual people. I’m so used to thinking of terracotta as a dull brown, but the real army was quite bright and rich in colors.

The afterlife even had a stable boy to look after the horses!

There were other pieces on display as well – brass pieces from the horses bridles, jewelry, various pottery, and miniature figurines.

The workmanship in creating all those different faces (8,000 pieces have been excavated so far), the horses and chariots is incredible. Equally incredible was how the First Emperor, Ying Zheng, made reforms and unified China after years of separate provinces and war.

The Terracotta Army is in Richmond for another week, through March 11. There are also evening hours to see it. More information can be found at the website for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.