Warriors, Tombs and Temples: China’s Enduring Legacy at the Bowers Museum

On Sunday, I went with a group of friends to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana to see the terracotta warriors on exhibit. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea the night before, after looking up the weather report and seeing that it was to be all rain the next day. I figured a day spent indoors looking at artifacts and hopefully learning a new thing or two would be just the right thing for a rainy day.

Turns out about a couple hundred people had the same idea as we did. Every first Sunday of the month, Target sponsors a “Free” day at the museum for the first 1500 guests. Thank goodness we lined up at around 10:30, because there was quite a crowd. Luckily we did get in and at noon we were let in to the exhibit.

There were four warriors on display–two kneeling, two standing. This particular warrior still has traces of green pigment on his face.

I think I stood in front of them for twenty minutes, snapping madly. The level of detail in their faces and armor and hair is amazing. I bet seeing a whole pit-full of them is even more exhilarating. Everyone that came into the exhibit room took at least one photo of the warriors; they definitely were the highlight of the show.

The warriors are from the Qin dynasty-era tombs. Here is a trusty-looking steed, ready to pull the emperor’s chariots and wagons in the afterlife.

These animal figures are from the Han dynasty and are much smaller in scale than the Qin dynasty artifacts. The horse sculpture is about the size of a small dog.

A seated warrior figure from the Han dynasty.

These are only a few of the 40,000 smaller “smiling” terracotta warriors from the Han dynasty. I would say it’s more upturned lips than full on-smile, but these figures do look more approachable than the fiercer looking (and more life-like) warriors of the Qin empire.

I thought this was a little scary looking. It’s a human face on what looks like a lion or tiger body. I’d be scared too if I saw this outside a tomb at night.

The thing that really put the cherry on top of the day was Jarry, the live-action terracotta warrior. He’s a guy who wanders around the museum dressed in full “terracotta” costume, complete with face paint. If he didn’t move, he’d definitely fit into the exhibit with no problem.

Here he is making his way through the crowd, who definitely started to swarm when they saw him taking pictures with families. He’s a very personable soldier.

Later on I had the opportunity of getting Jarry’s photo while in the exhibit. The funny story was, while I was shooting the real warriors (the ones you see up top), Jarry was already in the exhibit room sneaking up behind people. I saw out my periphery a gray shadow over my shoulder, but I thought it was Henry looking at my camera. Suddenly I heard a little snicker to my left, and I looked up startled and Jarry had been looking over my shoulder the whole time! He was pretty darn sneaky. I asked to take his photo and directed him to stand under a set of lights, but he shook his finger no and pointed at the panorama photo of the soldiers in the pit.

When I got home and looked at this photo, I couldn’t believe how awesome his costume was, and what a perfect spot he had picked for a shot. He looks like he was just excavated and restored, doesn’t he?

It was a really good way to spend time with my friends and see some cool things! I hope you visit your local museum soon; I know I’m looking forward to my next visit!



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  1. Very good info. Lucky me I found your site by accident
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