What can you do with 63 hours?

Aerial view Terra Cotta WarriorsOnly six days remain. Six days, to see one of the eight wonders of the world. The Terra Cotta Warriors, from Xi’an, China, will be available for your viewing pleasure, for six more days.

Have no fear. Here at HMNS, we know you’ve been busy – and this is something that no one should miss. So, we’re making things just a little bit easier for you to meet the warriors before they’re gone. We are extending our normal viewing hours to make sure as many people as possible have the time and chance to see this amazing exhibit before it leaves.

We will open at our normal hour of 9 a.m. on Friday, October 16 for a 63-hour Terra Cotta Warriors marathon and we won’t close until midnight on Sunday, Oct. 18. That’s 63 straight, uninterrupted hours for you to come in and see the exhibit. Want to meet China’s First Emperor at 3 a.m.? No problem.

63 hours. To put this span in perspective, I’ve devised a list of a few activities you might be able to do in 63 hours.

*Fly to the moon. A manned spacecraft takes roughly three days to fly to the moon.

*Learn the names of all 203 recognized U.N. countries.

*Watch “The Burning of the Red Lotus Temple,” a 1928 Chinese film that runs at about 27 hours, 2 1/5 times.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: thomas_sly

*Run the world’s fastest marathon (at two hours and four minutes) almost 30 times.

*Have a cell divide anywhere from two to five times inside of you.

*Listen to the song “Choak and Ace” (at a recorded length of 4 hours, 27 min, and 32 seconds) 13 and 1/3 times

*Go through almost one percent of pregnancy (not really recommended for the men reading this.)

*Experience the Terra Cotta Warriors at HMNS. This probably won’t take the full 60 hours. However, it is less dangerous than flying to the moon, won’t get stuck in your head like listening to the same four hour song 13 times, and is a lot less tedious than learning the names of 203 countries.

If you haven’t seen the warriors yet, we hope you’ll come by this weekend – any time.  See you there!

The Clothes Make the Warrior

kneeling archer close up cropped
An archer with a top knot haircut

It is said you can tell a lot about a person by the clothes they wear.  Clothing speaks to us, albeit quietly, but if you know how to “listen” you can glean loads of information.  Recently, I toured our Terra Cotta Warrior Exhibit with an expert on clothing styles. She told me about all of the Warriors and what these different styles “tell” us.

She first drew my attention to the different hairstyles of the warriors.  Three distinct styles can be seen; the top knot, the coil, and the flat braid.  In the Emperor’s army, your hairstyle would depend on your rank. The warrior would wear a top-knot, which is much like a bun; the higher the knot was worn on the head, the greater the number of kills made by that warrior. An officer’s hair would be braided flat.  Can you tell the warriors from the officers?


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Chariot driver with cap and chin strap

The headdress also speaks volumes about a soldier.  It tells you what military branch the individual belongs to and their status.  Warriors in the infantry wore a kerchief cap over their top-knot hairstyle.  A cavalryman wore a close-fitted cap with a chinstrap made from leather.  The charioteer wore a headdress made from metal and silk with a pointy top. A general might sport an elaborate headdress in the form of a double-tailed bird.  The pheasant-tailed cap of the general speaks of his bravery and skill on the battlefield.  Can you identify the different kinds of warriors by what they wear on their head?

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A Terra Cotta general

When considering the clothing of a warrior, you just must also check out his shoes – the longer the toe on the shoe, the higher the status of the individual.  Most shoes were made with animal hide, stitched with flax thread.  Straw was used as padding.  How many different types of shoes can you identify in the exhibit?

No well-dressed warrior would be seen without his armor, right?  Well, not exactly.  Whether you wore armor or not depended on your job.  Armor was made from plates of leather, shellacked with lacquer to give them strength.  The size of the plate indicated your importance; the smaller the plate, the higher your rank.

I hope you come by to check out the Terra Cotta Warrior Exhibit before the opportunity passes you by and if you do, I hope the warriors “speak” to you in their own amazing way!

Make sure to come back next week and check out an activity on how to make your own armor!

See the Eighth Wonder of the World in Style

aerial-view-terra-cotta-warriorsAlthough different lists vary slightly, there are seven wonders of the ancient world. The Great Pyramids at Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Discovered in 1974, the Terra Cotta Soldiers of Xi’an have been dubbed the Eighth – and with good reason. They’re absolutely stunning to behold in person. 

All of the soldiers that make up this new Wonder are located between 6,000 and 8,000 thousand miles away from Houston (the statue of Zeus at Olympia is the closest, at approximately 6,260 miles away), and are fairly inaccessible if you want to see something fantastic by the end of the week.

However, the Houston Museum of Natural Science has brought the Eighth Wonder of the World to your own backyard. Come see the largest group of Terra Cotta artifacts to ever leave China in our exhibit, the Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, on display until October 18, 2009.

dsc_0394And, this Thursday night, we offer an exclusive VIP event. View the exhibit at your own pace, question our very own Dirk Van Tuerenhout and enjoy cultural performances such as dragon dancers. Dine on Chinese appetizers and enjoy a cash bar as you peruse the Eigth Wonder of the World in style.

Terra Cotta VIP Event – Thursday, August 13, 2009
6 pm – 9 pm Don’t miss out – get your tickets now!

Terra Cotta Warriors myths…busted!

Middle Ranking Officer
Creative Commons License photo credit: Richard.Fisher

As you may have noticed from the anticipation, excitement, and general hullabaloo…we recently opened an exhibition chock full of Terra Cotta Warriors. And while museum people tend to find every exhibit that comes through our doors fascinating (part of the reason we take the leap from avid exhibition attendees to employees of said institutions) there are some things – King Tut, T. rex, and the Terra Cotta Warriors among them – that seem simply to have universal appeal.

Other exhibitions do well with particular demographics (history buffs loved Benjamin Franklin, engineers and art lovers packed in to see Leonardo da Vinci, kids couldn’t get enough of the Dino Mummy) but some topics fascinate across the board. Whether from historical importance, sheer size or the stunning nature of a discovery – some artifacts from our collective past stand out, almost demanding that we come and experience them for ourselves.

Due to this, Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperorhas created a lot of conversation – both in our exhibition halls and online – and so we thought we’d address some of the common questions here – and do a little mythbusting of our own.

The Terra Cotta Warriors on display at HMNS are fake. FALSE.

The exhibition contains 17 authentic Terra Cotta figures, including 11 warrior figures – but also court officials, acrobats, musicians, servants and more. Its fascinating to see the incredible detail crafted into each individual warrior – as well as the ways in which various stations in society were represented in clay. The warriors are imposing, the generals are enormous – but the kneeling servant is child-size.

All of the artifacts on display were excavated from the necropolis of Qin Shi Huang, China’s First Emperor. They were brought to Houston as part of an agreement with the Museum of the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang, Peoples Republic of China.

The exhibition does contain a few replica figures, however these are labeled as such. The replicas were included to represent horses and carriages that have recently been excavated, and are too fragile to travel.

Some confusion may also have arisen due to the existence of the Forbidden Gardens, in Katy. This display recreates the Emperor’s entire necropolis, in one-third size replica figures.

This exhibit has been to Houston before. FALSE…and TRUE.

We’ve heard this several times, but no one seemed to know where the rumor came from. The exhibition itself is newly created and has certainly never been to Houston before it opened here May 22. However, the misconception seems to have arisen from another exhibition that came though Houston, with Terra Cotta Warriors. Thank you to Laurie, one of our intrepid volunteer docents; Donna; one of our fabulous Museum bloggers; and David, a collections registrar from MFAH, for helping us track down the answer!

In 2000, the Museum of Fine Arts hosted The Golden Age of Chinese Archeology; Celebrated Discoveries from the People’s Republic of China, an exhibition of Chinese art that did contain several authentic figures from the terra cotta army. Organized by the National Gallery of Art, the exhibition covered a large span of time – from the prehistoric era to the late 10th century A.D. – and surveyed a broad range of highlights of Chinese archaeology.

Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, currently on display at HMNS, is a totally new exhibition that contains the most Terra Cotta Warriors and other “Level One” artifacts ever allowed to travel outside of China at once – there are 11 warriors alone, alongside many other kinds of tomb figures, such as acrobats and musicians. It’s also a much more specific look at the time in which the warriors were created – around the end of the 2nd century B.C. – the first time the lands today known as China were unified. A visit to this exhibition is the very best look at these marvels you could possibly get outside of Xi’an, China where the Warriors were discovered.

All of the Terra Cotta Warriors have been found and excavated. FALSE.

aerial-view-terra-cotta-warriorsIt is estimated that 7,000 or more warriors were created to accompany the Emperor to the afterlife – but only 1,000 have been fully excavated. Just recently, two decades after initial excavations ceased, Chinese authorities began new excavations in Xi’an, utilizing new technology that will preserve the warriors’ original colors.

Though excavations continue in the necropolis, the actual tomb of Qin Shi Huang remains intact, due to the high levels of mercury found in the surrounding soil – suggesting that the “rivers of mercury” said to have flowed through the tomb were actually left there and likely stil make the area to toxic to excavate.

Have you heard a Terra Cotta myth that needs debunking? Leave it in the comments and we’ll do our best to get to the bottom of it!