timberland splitrock safety boots cotta army from China ancient past comes to VMFA
Nearly 45 years after startled Chinese farmers discovered the first clay head jutting from the soil of Shaanxi province, the legendary terra cotta soldiers of the country’s first emperor have lost none of their power.
Measuring more than 6 feet tall and weighing as much as 400 pounds, each one has its own formidable and commanding presence. is so compelling you can almost feel them advancing on the field of battle.
That’s just one attraction, however, of a show that’s bringing more than 130 works of ancient Chinese art including more than 40 never before seen in the United States to the crowds expected to converge on Richmond.
Arms and armor demonstrate the nation’s warrior past, while harness, bridle and chariot fittings made of bronze, gold and silver underscore its defining relationship with the horse.
Government stamped coins, seals, plaques and weights tie the military triumph of Emperor Ying Zheng and the unification of seven warring states after a century of turmoil to the emergence of a landmark empire one that not only imposed national currency, writing and weights and measures systems for the first time but also became so dominant that it endured into the modern era.
“This is a journey that goes 22 centuries back in time to the world of the first Chinese emperor and to what I consider the greatest archaeological discovery of all time,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges says, describing a monarch so powerful he tried to beat death and win immortality by having an estimated 8,000 clay soldiers guard his tomb.
“These are amazing works of art buried for 2,200 years and no one knew they were there.”
Track recordMade up of loans from 14 different art museums and archaeological institutes located in Shaanxi, “Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China” debuts at the VMFA just three years after it mounted another landmark exhibit of Chinese art titled “Forbidden City: Imperial Treasures from the Palace Museum, Beijing.”
And like the popular 2014 show, it reflects both the prominence of the VMFA’s internationally known East Asian art collection and the stature of curator Li Jian, who came to Richmond in 2007 after organizing along with Nyerges several pioneering loan exhibits from China at the Dayton Museum of Art.
“Four of the most important loan exhibits to come from China in recent years have been curated by Li Jian,
” Nyerges says.
“And that’s because of the relationships we’ve been building with our partners in Beijing and Shaanxi for more than 25 years.”
The result is an exhibit that focuses closely on the origins of ancient China and the early Qin people as well as the terra cotta figures guarding the first emperor’s tomb.
In opening galleries, Jian and her co curator Hou mei Sung of the Cincinnati Art Museum explore the power and prestige of the first emperor through such striking objects as a half scale bronze chariot, which is believed to symbolize Ying Zheng ‘s epic imperial journey across his new domain following the unification of China.
The last gallery is given over completely to Ying Zheng ‘s quest for immortality and a dramatic presentation of his terra cotta soldiers, including standing and kneeling archers, an armored infantryman, a cavalryman and his horse and an imposing armored general all accompanied by a warlike assemblage of bronze lance , spear and arrowheads.
“These are amazing works of art, and when you look at each of the soldiers they are actually portraits of people from 22 centuries ago.” Nyerges says.
“Every face, every hat, even the facial hair of every soldier is unique. It’s mind boggling.”
Every face, every hat, even the facial hair of every soldier is unique. It’s mind boggling.
VMFA director Alex Nyerges
Beating deathEpic in scale and meticulous in detail, the great terra cotta soldiers and their accompanying figures were commissioned by Ying Zheng in order to make a statement to the world of the living as well as that of the dead, Jian says. to end hundreds of years of ungovernable turmoil.
Though only 39, the new emperor demonstrated his dominance and power quickly, imposing a universal writing system and currency in addition to a centralized government, Jian says.
He also revised competing standards of weights and measures into a single definitive system in order to promote trade, then constructed a national network of highways while pulling down the old defensive barriers between the warring states and linking their northernmost sections together into China’s famous Great Wall.
Great rows of bronze bells rang from the yokes linking the horses together, making a statement of imperial sway and control that could be heard and anticipated long before it could be seen.
“Who owned a chariot like this? Not the common people but the noblemen and rulers,
” Jian says.
“Can you imagine the sound they must have made? It was not just a weapon but a statement and symbol of power.”