Monday, June 10, 2013

Chinese terracotta warriors in San Francisco

March 2013

Some of the terracotta warriors who were buried with the First Emperor Qin Shihuang are on a travelling exhibit.  They came to the San Francisco Asian Art museum and a big group of friends joined us for this unique show.

You can see them in situ in China, but the travelling exhibit obviously has a limited set. They are a nice selection-the standing and kneeling warrior, an archer, horses, and a general.  The gift store has reproductions from knick-knack to 3/4 size for your garden-tempting!

As with the pyramids or the Great Wall, the shear scale of the project makes it worth thinking about.  Imagine being one of the terracotta artisans.  You start your apprenticeship making basic arms, legs and torsos.  You  hope to move up to work on the faces, all unique (maybe you make one look like you?).  And you are going to be doing this most of your life.  And you know your work is going to be buried so no one will see it. 

It wasn't just an army, they also constructed a palace, extra buildings and gardens, including bronze geese and ducks. The entire project needed over half a million workers.  So right, there was some hard core project management happening there!  Unfortunately for some, the emperor didn't want anyone to know what was going on, so planners, designers, important artisans, and their concubines, were buried with the emperor.  With great honor comes certain death.

We checked out the rest of the museum which manages to pack in many Asian cultures.  Take time to look at the pieces that museum workers have picked as their favorites (like recommendations in book stores) - the comments are funnier than you expect.  In the Japanese section, check out the tea room where you can learn about just how complex it can be to drink tea.  Below are some items I found especially beautiful.


batik textiles

flowers and leaves are swirling in the wind


  1. Love the blueish plate and the stone (?) tablet with the vertical writing. This was definitely a very cool exhibit.

  2. Thanks for getting us out of the house/away from unpacking to see this!