Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor
May 18–October 12, 2008

2002 N. Main St. Santa Ana, CA 92706
Contact: Heidi Simonian, Director of Public Relations & Marketing
Tel: 714-567-3642 / Fax: 714-567-3603

Web site:

Kneeling Archer
Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.)
Clay with pigment
Height 120 cm
Excavated in 1999 from Pit 2
Museum of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang, Lintong
No. 002812
Photo©Wang Da-Gang

Southern California first stop of major national tour

SANTA ANA, CA—The Bowers Museum presents Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, the largest loan of terra cotta figures and significant artifacts to ever travel to the U.S. from the tomb complex of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang (259–210 B.C.). Considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, the First Emperor’s enormous mausoleum features thousands of terra cotta warriors that were intended to protect him throughout eternity. Since their discovery, the terra cotta army has often been termed the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World. The exhibition provides a deeper knowledge of this historical site and showcases 100 sets of objects, which includes 14 complete life-size terra cotta warriors representing all aspects of the emperor’s army. Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor opens at the Bowers Museum on May 18, 2008 and remains on view through October 12, 2008.  

“We are so honored the Chinese government has allowed us to display these spectacular terra cotta warriors as ‘emissaries of goodwill’ in the U.S. during the time of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing,” said Bowers Museum President Dr. Peter C. Keller. “While the world’s focus will be on China, the Bowers Museum will offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these marvelous cultural attractions and help uncover the legacy of the First Emperor, right here at home.”

Co-organized by the Bowers Museum, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and National Geographic Society Museum, and Guest Curator Dr. Albert E. Dien, professor emeritus, Stanford University, Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor features the iconic terra cotta warriors alongside recently excavated sculptures of court officials, acrobats, generals, and bronze birds. The objects were drawn from 11 different collections in and near Xi’an, China, including the Museum of the First Emperor’s Terracotta Army and Horses, Shaanxi Provincial Institute for Archaeological Research, the Zhouzhi Museum, Baoji Museum, Xianyang Museum, Lintong Museum, Fengxiang Museum, Chencang Museum, Xi’an Institute for Archaeological Research and Protection, Baoji Archaeological Excavation Team, and Xianyang Institute for Archaeological Research.  

In 1974, a small group of farmers digging a well near the town of Lintong made a startling discovery of a terra cotta head. When archaeologists began excavating the area, they uncovered an astonishing scene: an immense subterranean vault containing long columns of life-size terra cotta warriors with armor, chariots, and horses standing in battle formation. The discovery subsequently led to scientific excavations that unearthed more than 1,000 life-size figures in three underground pits and up to 7,000 figures may be found in the future.

Construction of the First Emperor’s tomb took 38 years and began soon after he became King of the state of Qin. Although the tomb mound was visible aboveground, the terra cotta figures were a surprise when discovered because they had not been previously documented. The terra cotta army was created as an elite unit to guard the emperor in his afterlife. It is estimated that over 1,000 people were divided into 87 teams to produce the terra cotta warriors. They were all made by hand in assembly-line fashion and none are alike.

Human figures of soldiers, servants, musicians, acrobats, and animals were intended to create a familiar atmosphere for the emperor and meet his every need in the afterlife. Each figure has a different facial expression and serves a unique purpose. Kneeling Archer is portrayed in full battle regalia and looks straight ahead with a firm gaze. Entertainers, such as acrobats, were recently unearthed in 1999. These figures are more expressive than the warriors and are depicted in active poses with short kilts. In 2002, several life-size bronze birds were excavated and reveal the same delicacy as the human figures. Crane exemplifies the bird’s beauty as it stands with a s-shaped neck, looking downward to catch a small fish.

To provide a visual context for visitors, the exhibition galleries will be specially designed to capture the power and spiritual essence of the First Emperor’s tomb complex. The first gallery will provide a dramatic backdrop for visitors and will include several terra cotta figures displayed together to emulate their overwhelming presence. The exhibition installation will take visitors on a journey of discovery that will be similar to the way archaeologists found the objects. All the works will be grouped together according to their pit numbers and documentation will be provided to further educate visitors about their significance. In addition, the exhibition will reveal the history behind the First Emperor’s life, his military achievements, and political successes.   

About the First Emperor
Born in 259 B.C., the First Emperor was one of the most important political leaders to rule China over the past 2,000 years. At 13 years old, he became the King of Qin (pronounced ‘chin’), one of China’s Warring States, and went on to conquer the rival territories within the land. By 221 B.C., he unified the country and declared himself First Emperor. It is thought that the western name for China is derived from Qin, which became the name of the entire country during his rule.

To follow his military success, he began instituting a series of new policies that represented huge steps toward developing China as a nation. He centralized the government and established a standard law code, currency system, form of writing, and weights and measures. The First Emperor also implemented various grand-scale architectural projects that entailed a huge labor force. He harnessed all the human and physical resources in the country to complete more than 200 palaces, including the gigantic Afang Palace, the initial construction of the Great Wall of China, and a major water canal called the Lin Canal.

After surviving a series of assassination attempts, the First Emperor became obsessed with his own immortality, and launched a lavish naval expedition to find mythical islands and the elixir of life. Alchemists of his court attempted to extend his life by mixing various potions, but they failed, and he died at the age of forty-nine in 210 B.C.

Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor is accompanied by a comprehensive companion publication including numerous four-color illustrations. The volume includes a foreword about the life of the First Emperor by Dr. Jeffrey Riegel, and an essay focusing on the wonders of the emperor’s necropolis and the terra cotta warriors by Dr. Albert E. Dien. In addition to the companion publication, a smaller souvenir book can be purchased. Both publications, as well as many others related to the terra cotta warriors, are available at the Bowers Gallery Store.

Tour Schedule
After premiering at the Bowers Museum, Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor is scheduled to travel to the Houston Museum of Natural Science (May 18–October 16, 2009) and the National Geographic Society Museum (November 19, 2009–March 31, 2010).

The same collection of objects were previously on view at the British Museum, where they were presented under a different title and curatorial framework (September 13, 2007–April 6, 2008), and this exhibition will travel to the High Museum of Art (November 15, 2008–April 26, 2009).

Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor is a date and time stamped, specially ticketed exhibition. Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased online at or via phone at Ticketmaster (877.250.8999). All ticket prices include the exhibition audio tour and access to all other museum galleries. Prices are weekdays: $25 adults, $19 students and seniors (62+); weekends: $27 adults, $21 students and seniors (62+). Admission for children under 6 is free. PIMCO’s Free Friday Nights will offer free admission for up to 100 visitors per hour at 4, 5, 6, and 7 pm. The museum will close at 8pm

Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor is made possible in Southern California through the generosity of the Bowers Museum Host Committee: Dee Dee Anderson and David Poiry, Mr. and Mrs. Jim Y. Hsu, Donald and Dorothy Kennedy, and Mary and John Tu. Major exhibition sponsors include James Carona and Heather Sacre of Heather James Art & Antiquities and Rohrer Fine Art, The PIMCO Foundation, East West Bank, Resources Global Professionals, Capital Group Companies, Inc., The Boeing Company, Viking River Cruises, Wan-I Huang, Janis Agopian, Ginny Rooney Davies, John M. Lee, Sue Tsao, Macy’s, and Pao Chu Chen Tsai, Hilton Anaheim, City of Santa Ana. UPS is the exclusive “Global Delivery Partner” of the Terra Cotta Warriors. Pacific Palms Resort is the “Official Hotel of the Terra Cotta Warriors.” Media Partners: KOCE, LA-18, KNBC and KCRW.

About the Bowers Museum
The Bowers Museum is an internationally-celebrated institution of art and culture dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of fine arts from around the world. To achieve its mission to “enrich lives through the world’s finest arts and cultures,” the Bowers offers exhibitions, lectures, art classes, travel programs, children’s art and music education programs, and other community programs. Its guiding philosophy is to help people learn about other cultures through their arts, and offer a greater understanding of ourselves and appreciation of the world in which we live. The museum’s permanent collection is particularly strong in the areas of African, South Pacific, Asian, Native American, Pre-Columbian art, and California plein-air painting. The Bowers has organized some of the most culturally significant exhibitions in history, including Secret World of the Forbidden City, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Egyptian Treasures of The British Museum, and Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World.

In addition to presenting acclaimed art exhibitions, the Bowers Kidseum, located two blocks south of the main museum, offers multi-faceted art and cultural educational experiences for young children, their families, and the community. Kidseum is dedicated to providing children a fun environment where imagination and creativity are not only encouraged, but nurtured.

Location and Hours: The Bowers Museum is located at 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706. Open hours are: Tuesday–Sunday, 10 am–4 pm; the fourth Thursday of every month, 10 am–8 pm. For more information, call 714.567.3600 or log on to .

The Bowers Kidseum is located at 1802 North Main Street Santa Ana, CA 92706. Open hours are: Thursday and Friday, 10am–3 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11 am–4 pm. For more information, call 714.480.1520 or visit .

Free Days: General admission to the Bowers Museum and Kidseum are free to Santa Ana residents on the first Sunday and third Tuesday of each month with proof of residency, courtesy of the Lockhart Family and in memory of Dorothy Goerl. Both facilities are closed on Mondays, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

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