Saturday, November 10, 2012

Terra Cotta Warriors

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art about the Chinese terra cotta warriors.
 China's Terracotta Warriors

This is something many of us have heard about through TV or the Internet; we absorb it. But I realized I didn't know much about the context of these figures. I also didn't know why the particular emperor who commissioned this tomb is called the First Emperor of China.

 This emperor is credited with uniting China into a nation -- that's why he is called the First Emperor. But what is more mind-boggling -- he became emperor when he was 13 years old and died around the age of 40. Another informative display reminded us that the Chinese nation/culture is the only one that has survived from antiquity into the modern day. Others such as the Roman or Persian empires are gone.

The particular emperor is credited with bringing Chinese art into realism. That may be why we like these figures so very much. When one looks at the faces of warriors, each is an individual. The horse above looks like a photograph of a horse, not like a piece of clay.

The exhibit was quite crowded despite controlled admission by ticket. There were a lot of school kids, behaving very well -- all is not lost with the next generation despite what some people say! I was very difficult to take pictures without violating the privacy of other visitors. I overheard a docent say, "If you think this is crowded, you should go to  China."

I could catch a photo of the birds below without bothering anyone.

I also chose the birds because I've never before seen birds associated with the terra cotta figures.

Leaving the exhibit I saw a chariot silhouetted in the sun.

 The Minneapolis Institute of Art has long held a collection of Chinese art. One of my favorite pieces is Jade Mountain.

The figure is about 1 meter wide and 2/3 meter tall.

In the same area I saw this:

This figure is about 2/3 meter tall, and is about 1000 years "newer" than the terra cotta warriors. This figure, however, helped me understand what is meant by the warriors being painted. The paint is gone on the terra cotta warriors due to the moisture of the earth. This figure was always protected, so the paint remains.

This is a great exhibit. You can read more about it and also more about Chinese culture as related to these figures by clicking on the link at the beginning of this post.

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