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Friday, 6th November 2015
In General Japan News,

Japan hosts part of the Great Terracotta Army

The Great Terracotta Army may be an attraction more associated with China than Japan, but those travelling to Tokyo in the coming months will have an opportunity to see a section of the incredible set of sculptures. Just ten of the soldiers are on display at the Tokyo National Museum from now until February.

Getting a chance to see these life-size figures outside of China is quite a coup, as the Qin Shi Huang-era statues leave the country very rarely. And that’s not surprising as they are 2,200-years-old and considered among China’s most valuable treasures. Some experts have even referred to the army as the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

Until 41 years ago, the existence of the figures buried beneath the earth near the city of Xian was unknown to the modern world. Farmers digging a well in the region stumbled upon the site, but could have no idea what it was that they had found. Careful excavations led to some 8,000 individual pieces being unearthed.

Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China, who lived from 259 to 210 BC, started preparations for his death at age just 13. He ordered that thousands of soldiers, horses and chariots like those seen in his capital city Xian be made out of clay in order to protect him in the afterlife.

Yoshio Kawamura, curator of the exhibition, told the Japan Times: “We would like to have had a few more like the Great British Museum, but unfortunately a new regulation made that impossible. Having said that, the ten statues still require a lot of space and I’m not sure other museums in Tokyo would have been able to do it. We’ve had a number of exhibitions in this building celebrating Chinese civilisation, but this is the first time to welcome the Terracotta Army here so we’re really excited about it.”

Visitors to the exhibition in Tokyo will find the warriors put into context, as the display has three distinct stages. In the first, life in the area prior to Qin Shi Huang’s reign will be explored. Then the period in which the emperor ruled will be explain in detail, before the warriors themselves are shown.

As well as the ten soldiers displayed in front of a huge image of the site near Xian, visitors will also be able to examine 100 replicas of statues that did not travel to Tokyo. What was so incredible about Qin Shi Huang’s clay army was not just that they were created life-size and in so much detail, but also the sheer number that he commissioned, making seeing them in a group important to understand the effect.

Of the warriors that can be seen in this new exhibition, the one that stands out the most is The General. He is 195 centimetres tall and is surrounded by those he is commanding. A kneeling and a standing archer are present, as well as a military officer, an infantryman and a cavalryman all with their weapons in hand. An impressive horse, a chariot driver, a stableman in a kneeling position and a strongman who has lost his head make up the collection.

The exhibition will be at the Tokyo National Museum in Taito Ward until February 21st. Be advised that it is closed on Mondays.