On view at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum until May 27, the exhibit features 10 life-sized warriors, the maximum allowed outside China for a single show. Also on view are 110 related objects from burial chambers and sites around the emperor's tomb.
These archaeological wonders were discovered by farmers in 1974 and the location has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The burial complex is 250,000 sq. ft., or roughly the size of four football fields. It was built over 40 years by laborers, all entombed in the finished work, to immortalize Qin Shihuang, first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE). Most famous of the relics found are 8,000 terracotta warriors, none with the same face. The extensive site is still under excavation.
Qin Shihuang unified the seven states of China, established legal reforms, created a standardized writing system and set up a single currency. Although the warriors, horses, chariots, swords and other objects of warfare are the best known objects, the treasures include tools, ritual vessels, elaborate architectural pieces, an inlaid bell, statues of birds and other objects which testify to the growth of life in his dynasty.
The catalogue is edited by Lui Yang and features substantive scholarly articles with colorful illustrations of the exhibited objects.
The Asian Art Museum has added its own particular touch to the exhibit. Visitors can download AAM: Terracotta Warriors at the Apple iTunes store and interact with designated objects. These include the opportunity to see a warrior in the original bright colors, now faded to mud, ring the bell, watch a crane come to life and control the movements of a walking warrior.
Public programs include a discussion by archaeologists about beliefs in life after death, noon to 4 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 5. See website for details of this and other programs for individuals, children and families.