May 25--INDIANAPOLIS -- More than 2,200 years ago, the first emperor of China ordered an army of 8,000 Terra Cotta warriors to be constructed, complete with horses and chariots. The clay warriors were intended to protect emperor Qin in the after-life.
In 1974, Qin's army soldiers were discovered by farmers digging a well. The statues were standing in formation. That led to the uncovering of the grave site, which includes a flowing stream. The site has been called the Eighth Wonder of the World.
This year, the Indianapolis Children's Museum is the only exhibit of artifacts from the Terra Cotta warriors in the United States. It is geared to provide children with an understanding of the feat.
The exhibit, "China's Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor's Painted Army," runs through Nov. 2 at the museum, 3000 N. Meridian St.
A companion exhibit, "Take Me There: China," shows Indiana residents what it's like to live in modern day China.
Unlike other exhibits of the Terra Cotta warriors in the past, the Indianapolis exhibit is a hands-on experience. Visitors are encouraged to reconstruct replicas of the warriors, use computer graphics to paint the warriors, and mold warriors and faces from clay.
Eight of the magnificent soldiers are on display including a general, shown exactly as he was found and another one as a painted replica showing how he appeared 2,200 years ago.
The fascinating thing about the warriors is that each has a different face. A mold was used for the bodies but the artisans gave each a different facial expression and appearance.
In addition to the warriors there are 118 other artifacts from China including armor worn by the warriors and pieced together and weapons.
Eyes that look back
When discovered in 1974 many of the 8,000 warriors were in pieces as a result of the roof to the tomb collapsing. The warriors are being reconstructed by a group of experts.
Included in the "Take Me There: China" are replicas of three houses where a family lives. The great grandmother lives in a traditional Chinese house with the grandparents residing in an apartment and the third generation in a high-rise apartment building.
There are replicas of a tea room, a theater complete with authentic costumes and a temple where visitors are taught the ancient art of Kung Fu.
Charity Counts, a vice president with the museum, has been to the Terra Cotta site in China on two occasions while working with officials to bring the exhibit to Indianapolis.
"When I first went to China in 2006 and went to that site it looks like a big airplane hangar, it's huge," she said. "It's amazing, because it's so big and how far underground it was. I didn't expect to be as moved as I was."
Counts said museum representatives spent a great deal of time building relationships until they eventually met with the official in charge.
"We did a presentation of what we wanted to do, something for kids," she said. "As soon as they saw our presentation, they immediately wanted to place Indianapolis on the calendar."
Counts said visitors should pay special attention to the head of a warrior, making its first appearance in the United States.
"It shows emotion, if you look in his eyes he is looking back at you," she said.
Counts said in "Take Me There: China" visitors should sign up to participate in a play and learn Kung Fu.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.
If you go What: "Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor's Painted Army" and "Take Me There: China" exhibits Where: Indianapolis Children's Museum, 3000 N. Meridian St. When: Now through Nov. 2. Hours: Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Admission: Children (2-17) $15.50; Adults, $19.50; Seniors (over 60), $19.50 includes museum admission. Video online For a related video, visit heraldbulletin.com and find the Tout video updates box on the home page.
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