Ten of China’s Terracotta Warriors march their way to US exhibition

China 24

It’s often regarded as the Eighth Wonder of the World – a massive army of Terracotta Warriors buried in the central Chinese city of Xi’an thousands of years ago.

Now, some of these archaeological marvels have made their way to the United States.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo travelled to Philadelphia for this rare exhibition.

Imagine while digging a water well, you stumble upon this buried treasure: a life-sized Terracotta soldier. And then, that discovery leading to about 8,000 more.

That’s how history played out in 1974 in Xi’an.

Local farmers, by chance, unearthed the artifacts dating back to the 3rd Century B.C.

The first emperor of China – Qin Shi Huang – ordered them made so they could protect him in the afterlife.

“I used to teach world history, and we taught about the terracotta warriors, and I always thought that was an amazing story and how they were discovered, I wanted to see them when they were in town,” said visitor David Ruth.

For Americans who haven’t made the trek to China, Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute museum is bringing ten of the soldiers to them.

And, unlike in Xi’an, the soldiers are on display outside their glass cases.

“This is the closest that I can even think of anyone being to the Terracotta warriors in recent memory where you are only a few feet away,” said Mickey Maley, Assistant Director of Public Programs at the Franklin Institute.

“To know that unskilled laborers produced the bulk of these, and it was really just a small group of people that did the finishing touches to make them each unique and special was incredible,” said visitor Lara Grant.

“So realistic, they look like they’re still alive,” exclaimed 9-year-old Jenny Fang who was visiting with her parents.

Shipping the artifacts from China was not easy. For pieces made of such fragile and sensitive material, curators had to be extremely careful.

“There are very specific rules like do not stack the crates, one warrior on top of another one, for fear if something were to happen, you might lose two,” said Maley.  “Oxygen and water are really detrimental to artifacts of any kind. And they can damage a lot of materials. So we have to maintain a really great temperature in the room.”

The ancient artifacts have a modern twist. The public is able to interact with the warriors by downloading an app on their phone.  They take that app to scan a target on the figurine.  So though you see a warrior not holding anything, the app shows him actually holding weapons, what he was likely doing more than 2,000 years ago.

The interactive experience is the work of a specially-assembled digital team, part of a strong collaboration between a group from Franklin and Chinese officials in Xi’an.

“One of the real exciting things was being able to go to China and visit some of the museums as well as the dig sites themselves,” said Jeanne Maier, Director of Exhibits and Design at the Franklin Institute.

It’s a relationship the staff and visitors alike hope will continue in their quest to make this rich part of Chinese history come alive.

“I think we as Chinese living in America, we have a responsibility to teach our children Chinese history,” said visitor Terry Fang, Jenny’s father.

“There is a lot to be learned about certain types of mysteries, we’re constantly learning more,” said Maley.  “There are questions still to be answered.”