August Flickr Photo of the Month: Terra Cotta Warriors!

Houston Cougars

There are some amazing photographers that wander the halls of HMNS – as well as the areas surrounding the Museum in Hermann Park. When we’re lucky, they share what they capture in our HMNS Flickr pool. Each month, we highlight one of these photos here on the blog.

This month, we’re featuring a photo from Arie Moghaddam, known as Houston Cougars on Flickr, who is a regular attendee of the Museum’s Flickr meetups. This photo is from the meetup we held in our Summer 2009 exhibition, Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor.

Why would we feature an image that’s celebrating it’s 2nd birthday? First: we’re thinking a lot about the Terra Cotta Warriors lately – since we’ve just announced a new exhibit featuring these wonders of the world!

Warriors, Tombs and Temples opens April 1, 2012!

The upcoming exhibit  includes 200 incredibly preserved ancient works of art featuring newly-discovered artifacts unearthed from imperial, royal and elite tombs and from beneath Buddhist monasteries in and around the capital cities of three great dynasties – as well as four of the famous life-size Terra Cotta Warriors!

And, second: it’s a great image with a unique perspective on the original exhibit. Arie shared a few words about what inspired it:

As for what inspired me to take the picture (aside from you being nice enough to invite us), of all the pictures I took I think this one best captures the essence of the exhibit since it combines the statue, cross bow, and armor in a logical order which any emperor would be pleased to have in his necropolis.

Inspired? Most of the Museum’s permanent galleries are open for photography, and we’d love for you to share your shots with us on Flickr, Facebook or Twitter. Check out the HMNS photo policy for guidelines.

Terra Cotta Warriors was a temporary exhibit, and photography was restricted outside of special Flickr meetup opportunities. Follow our posts in the HMNS Flickr pool for announcements about upcoming events.

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!

VIDEO: Terra Cotta Warriors set to invade HMNS

I’ve been meaning to write this blog, it seems like, forever. I traveled to the city of Xi’an in China to see the Terra Cotta Warriors a couple of months ago and the experience was…Actually, I can’t quite put it into words, which is why it has taken me a while to share my story with you. The words I want to use are “enlightening;” “awesome;” “once-in-a-lifetime;” “amazing;” “breathtaking;” etc. But it was so much more than that.

mel-warriors-1
 Me standing in Pit 1

Here I was standing in Pit 1 at the Terra Cotta Warrior Museum amidst thousands of life-size warriors dating to around 200 BC—one of the most sensational archeological finds of all time. How can I simply find the right words to describe this?

After walking into the Pit on my initial visit, I turned to my colleague, Lisa, and commented: “when I was growing up, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be in China standing at this legendary site.” And, I must admit China was not on my Bucket List.  However, I advise you to add it to your list if you haven’t done so. It is estimated that more than two million people a year travel to Xi’an to view the famous clay warriors.

Because I can’t seem to find the appropriate words to describe how excited I am about the arrival of the special exhibition, Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor opening May 22, as well as explain to you just how grand this experience will be for visitors without gasping for air out of pure enthusiasm, I recruited our Curator of Anthropology, Dirk Van Tuerenhout, to share his thoughts. His commentary is mixed with video I captured during my trip.

Click on the play button below to hear his tale of the First Emperor and the Terra Cotta Warriors and what you can expect to see in this unprecedented show.

Has anyone ever visited China’s Terra Cotta Warrior Museum? If you can put your experience in words, please share your story with us.