Warriors, Tombs and Temples


Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, declared one of the top 10 museum exhibitions by TIME Magazine, set attendance records during its stint in the U.S., including a blockbuster stop at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Over 1 million viewed the extraordinary archaeological find, deemed the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World.

The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California and The Houston Museum of Natural Science have marshaled a new army for display. Warriors, Tombs and Temples: China’s Enduring Legacy opened at the Bowers Museum in celebration of Chinese National Day on Oct. 1, 2011.

Warriors, Tombs, and Temples included 200 incredibly preserved ancient works of art featuring newly-discovered artifacts unearthed from imperial, royal and elite tombs and from beneath Buddhist monasteries in and around the capital cities of three great dynasties, all located near the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province. These are Xianyang, the capital city during the Qin dynasty (221 – 206 BCE), Chang’an, the capital city during the Western or Former Han (206 BCE – 8 CE) and the Tang (618 – 907 CE) dynasties.

New Warriors

The exhibition featured four of the famous life-size Terra Cotta Warriors, protectors of China’s First Emperor Qin Shihuang, whose mausoleum complex is considered the eighth wonder of the world. Thanks to new conservation techniques, the paint on the warriors’ garments and armor is now clearly visible and there are unexpected touches—premiering in this exhibition is the strangest of all—a Terra Cotta Warrior whose face is painted green.

Smaller in scale but equally impressive, are the terra cotta warriors from the imperial tomb complex of a famous Han rebel-turned-emperor Jingdi. Like the Qin army of warriors, they have individualized features and are completely outfitted for battle—only their expressions are peaceful—perhaps, because they are presented in combination with concubines, animals and other necessities’ required for a prosperous and comfortable afterlife.

Exquisite Artifacts

Precious objects include gold dragons, fine ornaments, an exquisite tomb demon and other luxuries. A rare and important painting of a polo game between royals illustrates the adoption of Western influences by the East. Sacred objects including the reliquary that held the historic Buddha’s finger bone from the Famen Temple are displayed for the first time outside of China, illustrating the widespread acceptance of Buddhist beliefs among commoners and elites alike.

Explore Daily Life In Ancient China

Aside from their striking artistic beauty, the objects on display also inform visitors about aspects of daily life and values in the Capital cities of ancient China: how people made a living, worshipped, traded, and buried their dead. Discover the daily and ritual lives of the elites, including the royal families, of each era. Along with what elites wore, rode on, ate from, and took to their tombs, the extraordinary works of art reveal tensions, controversies, and plots at court. Almost all of the material comes from imperial and royal tombs.

Warriors, Tombs and Temples: China’s Enduring Legacy is organized by the Bowers Museum and the Houston Museum of Natural Science in association with the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, the FamenTemple Museum, the Han Yangling Mausoleum Museum, the Lin Yu County Museum, the Museum of the Terracotta Warrior and Horses of Qin Shi Huang, the Shaanxi Archaeology Institute, the Shaanxi History Museum, the Xi’an Museum, the Xianyang Museum, and theXixiang County Museum.

Support provided by The Harriet and Truett Latimer Endowment Fund

Curator: Dirk Van Tuerenhout Ph.D.

Dr. Van Tuerenhout joined the Museum staff full-time in 1999. Dirk Van Tuerenhout, Ph.D., Curator of Anthropology Dr. Van Tuerenhout is an expert in human cultures, especially those of Latin America, and is well versed in archaeology and anthropology. He took part in excavations of Late Roman ruins in his….


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