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’Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians Of China’s First Emperor’ To Open At National Geographic Museum On Nov. 19


WASHINGTON - “Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor,” featuring the largest number of terra cotta figures ever to travel to the United States for a single exhibition, will open on Nov. 19, 2009, at the National Geographic Museum. The museum is the final venue of the exhibition’s four-city U.S. tour. Open through March 31, 2010, the exhibition includes 15 terra cotta figures from the tomb of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, who ruled from 221 B.C. to 210 B.C.

“The First Emperor’s magnificent terra cotta army is one of the great wonders of the ancient world,” said Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s executive vice president for Mission Programs. “Visitors to the National Geographic Museum will have the rare opportunity to experience one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century as they stand face-to-face with the terra cotta warriors.”

The ticketed exhibition offers an in-depth look at the First Emperor’s enormous tomb complex that contained thousands of terra cotta warriors intended to protect him in the afterlife. The exhibition showcases 15 life-size terra cotta figures and 100 sets of objects, including 20 “Level 1” artifacts — China’s highest possible ranking in terms of rarity and importance.

“Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor” is co-organized by the Bowers Museum, Houston Museum of Natural Science and the National Geographic Museum, and is guest curated by Dr. Albert E. Dien, professor emeritus, Stanford University.

“Terra Cotta Warriors” is supported by American Airlines; Amtrak; Washington, D.C.’s Loews Madison Hotel; P.F. Chang’s China Bistro; The PIMCO Foundation; UPS; Viking River Cruises; and WTOP.

The exhibition is supported locally by Asia Nine; Cultural Tourism DC; Destination DC; D.C. United; Hong Kong Palace; Mie N Yu; TenPenh; Union Station; Washington National Opera; The Washington Nationals; and The Washington Post.

In support of the exhibition, National Geographic has published a companion book, “Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor,” by Jane Portal, and exhibit-related merchandise is available online and in the National Geographic Museum store. A teacher’s guide can be found online via the For Teachers page at A touchable terra cotta warrior replica and two kiosks featuring an interactive game are available for museum visitors to access free.

Free screenings of the film “The Real Dragon Emperor,” featuring the latest archaeological research and imaging techniques that take viewers inside the massive tomb of Qin Shihuangdi, will be shown in National Geographic’s Grosvenor Auditorium at 12 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through the run of the exhibition. The hour-long film also will be screened on Saturday, Nov. 21, at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and on the following Saturdays: Nov. 28, Dec. 26, Jan. 30, Feb. 27 and March 27, at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.

In addition, National Geographic will host a Chinese New Year celebration on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, presenting sponsor of the celebration, will provide complimentary tickets to the exhibition that day. Details on how to receive these tickets will be made available soon. Additional support of the Chinese New Year celebration is provided by The PIMCO Foundation.

Historian and guest curator Albert Dien will review the tumultuous era of Chinese history that saw the construction of the terra cotta army at a sold-out National Geographic Live event on Nov. 21.

Discovered after being buried for more than 2,000 years, the terra cotta warriors reveal secrets of the Qin dynasty. The warriors were found in 1974 by a group of farmers digging a well near Xi’an in China’s Shaanxi province. When archaeologists began excavating the area, they uncovered a subterranean vault containing fragments of thousands of terra cotta figures in four pits. More than 1,000 life-size figures have been unearthed as part of the site’s ongoing excavation, with estimates of 6,000 more remaining in the known underground pits.

Construction of Qin Shihuangdi’s tomb took 36 years to complete, and the tomb complex is estimated to extend more than 19 square miles. The terra cotta figures were created in assembly-line fashion, and molds were used to mass-produce hands, heads and ears. Craftsmen sculpted individual armor details and facial features by hand. It is believed that no two faces are alike.

“Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor” features 15 terra cotta figures, consisting of nine warriors — two infantrymen, a chariot driver, two officers, an armored warrior, two archers and a cavalryman — as well as two musicians, a strongman, a court official, a stable attendant and a horse. The exhibition showcases 100 sets of artifacts, including weapons, stone armor, coins, jade ornaments, roof tiles and decorative bricks, and a bronze crane and swan. Two replica bronze chariots will also be on display.

The 12,000-square-foot exhibition is organized into four themes. The first, “Building the Empire,” introduces visitors to Qin Shihuangdi and his formidable rule. This gallery also details the emperor’s establishment of new standards, including dictated script, coinage, weights and measures.

The second theme, “Power and Paranoia,” highlights the First Emperor’s architectural projects as he sought to create physical proof of his power. He was preoccupied with keeping his location secret, and his many dwellings, including 300 extravagant palaces and 400 lodges, allowed him to stay in a different place each night.

The third theme, “The Afterlife,” focuses on the construction of the massive underground tomb complex and the practice of burying objects with the dead to serve their spirits in an afterworld.

The final theme, “Armies Unearthed,” showcases eight of the warriors and details how the terra cotta army was created. This section also highlights the work of excavators and conservators in reconstructing and preserving the artifacts.

The exhibition began its U.S. tour at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Calif., in May 2008. The same collection of objects then visited the High Museum of Art in Atlanta from November 2008 through April 2009, under a different title and curatorial framework. “Terra Cotta Warriors” visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science from May through October 2009, before traveling to the National Geographic Museum.

The objects in the exhibition are drawn from 11 different collections in and near Xi’an, including the Museum of the First Emperor’s Terra Cotta Army and Horses, Shaanxi Provincial Institute for Archaeological Research, the Zhouzhi Museum, Baoji Museum, Xianyang Museum, Lintong Museum, Fengxiang Museum, Chencang Museum, Xi’an Institute for Archaeological Research and Protection, Baoji Archaeological Excavation Team and Xianyang Institute for Archaeological Research.

Tickets are timed and dated and can be purchased online at the Buy Tickets page of the exhibition Web site, by phone at (202) 857-7700, and at the National Geographic Museum ticket booth located at the exhibition’s entrance or at the National Geographic ticket office, 1600 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The exhibition is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with extended hours on Wednesdays until 9 p.m. The National Geographic Museum will be closed on Dec. 25.

Ticket prices are $12 for adults; $10 for seniors, students, military personnel and National Geographic members; and $6 for children ages 2-12. Children under age 2 are admitted free. A companion audio tour, offered in English, Mandarin and Spanish, is available for $5.

Prices for groups of 10 or more are $8 per ticket, and K-12 school groups are $6 per person with one free adult ticket for each group of 10 students. For more information on group sales, call (202) 857-7281.

The PIMCO Foundation will provide 200 free, same-day tickets each Wednesday evening during the exhibition’s run. These tickets will be distributed at the museum at 5:30 p.m. for the 6 p.m. viewing on a first-come, first-served basis, with a limit of two tickets per person.

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is offering $2 off a full-price exhibition ticket for guests at its nine D.C.-area restaurants. Guests will receive a special promotional code that can be used when purchasing tickets online, by phone or at the museum.

The National Geographic Museum’s official hotel partner, the Loews Madison Hotel, is offering a package that includes one night deluxe accommodation, two premium anytime tickets to the exhibition and a 20 percent discount at the museum gift shop, available online at Additional hotel packages, including premium tickets for anytime access to the exhibition, are being offered at several area hotels through Destination DC’s Weekend Warriors promotion. Visit for details. Hotel packages are also available through AAA.

For additional ticketing information, visit

The National Geographic Museum, located at 1145 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., features a variety of changing exhibitions as well as permanent and interactive displays that reflect the richness and diversity of our world.

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. National Geographic reflects the world through its magazines, television programs, films, music and radio, books, DVDs, maps, exhibitions, live events, school publishing programs, interactive media and merchandise. National Geographic magazine, the Society’s official journal, published in English and 32 local-language editions, is read by nearly 40 million people each month. The National Geographic Channel reaches 310 million households in 34 languages in 165 countries. National Geographic Digital Media receives more than 13 million visitors a month. National Geographic has funded more than 9,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program combating geography illiteracy. For more information, visit


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