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Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality

December 15, 2018

Te Papa secures 2,300 year old Terracotta Warriors

China’s ancient treasures, the 2,300 year old terracotta warriors, are coming to Te Papa this summer. Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality 秦始皇兵马俑:永恒的守卫 will open 15 December 2018 and run until 22 April 2019.

Te Papa has developed the $2.6 million landmark exhibition with support of up to $500,000 from the Major Events Development Fund, administered by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

Geraint Martin, Te Papa’s Chief Executive, is delighted that New Zealanders will get this rare opportunity to see these unique imperial icons at the national museum.

“We’ve created this exhibition to bring the internationally acclaimed terracotta army to New Zealand, treasures that many wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to see,” says Geraint Martin.

“The exhibition promises to be a major and unique event for Te Papa and for New Zealand.”

For more than 2000 years, an underground army secretly guarded the tomb of Qin Shihuang, China’s First Emperor. They were discovered by chance in 1974 by a farmer digging a well and have come to be regarded as one of the greatest archaeological finds of the twentieth century – an eighth wonder of the world.

The exhibition features eight warriors standing 180 centimetres high, and two full-sized horses from the famous terracotta army, as well as two half-size replica bronze chariots, each drawn by four horses.

The remarkable terracotta figures are given context in the exhibition by being presented alongside extravagant treasures from imperial tombs in and around China’s ancient capital, Xi’an.

Terracotta Warriors includes more than 160 exquisite works of ancient Chinese art crafted from gold, jade and bronze, which date from the Western Zhou through to the Han dynasties (1046 BC – 220AD).

Dr Rebecca Rice, curator of the exhibition, visited the First Emperor’s mausoleum in Xi’an and was astounded by the power the site has over its vast numbers of visitors each year.

“At Te Papa, we’re offering visitors an immersive and intimate experience, a chance to see the Terracotta Warriors up close in breath-taking detail. You can really appreciate the individuality of each warrior and the incredible creativity and sophistication it would have taken to build this remarkable army.”

“The exhibition will also provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the First Emperor’s vision and his unification of China, shaping the nation as we know it today,” says Rebecca Rice.
Geraint Martin says Terracotta Warriors will be supported by an extensive programme of free cultural events, “including Chinese New Year Celebrations in collaboration with Wellington City Council, which will create even more excitement around the exhibition.”

“Based on our latest audience research we estimate that 100,000 people will take this special opportunity to see the authentic terracotta warriors in person, generating an estimated $33 million economic benefit to Wellington,” says Geraint Martin.

With 2019 being the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism, this exhibition provides a foundation stone of New Zealand’s exciting tourism programme.

In addition to the Major Events Development Fund investment from MBIE, Te Papa also acknowledges the support of Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, Shaanxi History Museum (Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center), Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, Wellington City Council, Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, and a number of partners who are working with Te Papa towards supporting this momentous cultural exchange between New Zealand and China.

Tickets to Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality exhibitions will be on sale from 1 October (adult $19.50, child 3-15 years $9, concession $17). To register for presales or for more information please see tepapa.nz/terracottawarriors .

For more information and interview requests please contact Andrea Tandy, Senior Communications Advisor, Te Papa 029 601 0010, andrea.tandy@tepapa.govt.nz 


Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality
15 December – 22 April 2019
Toi Art at Te Papa, Level 4

Background information:
The First Emperor’s Terracotta Army is located 1.5 kilometres east of the Emperor’s burial mound in Xi’an, China, in the province of Shaanxi.

It is estimated that there are 8000 soldiers in total, with approximately 3000 having been excavated to date.

The life-size, life-like soldiers, each weigh 100–300 kilograms and stand about 180 centimetres high. They vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with rank. Originally, the figures were painted with bright pigments, however much of the colour has faded over time.

Te Papa’s exhibition will have two horses and eight full-size warriors: an armoured general, an unarmoured general, two armoured military officers, a kneeling archer, a standing archer, an unarmoured infantryman and a civil official.

Scholars continue to debate the function of Qin’s Terracotta Army. Some think that, due to the fact the soldiers face east, they were intended to protect the First Emperor in the afterlife. Others question the soldiers’ readiness for battle, as they are not fully armoured.

By the numbers:
– 2,300 years old (age of the terracotta warriors)
– 8 full-sized terracotta warriors
– 2 full-sized terracotta horses
– 100-300kg weight range of the warriors
– 180cm height of the warriors
– 2 half-size replica bronze chariots, each drawn by four horses.
– More than 160 exquisite ancient Chinese works crafted from gold, jade and bronze
– $2.6 million cost of the exhibition
– $500,000 Major Events Development Fund investment from MBIE
– 100,000 estimated expected exhibition visitors
– $33 million estimated economic benefit to Wellington


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