Terracotta Warriors from tomb of China’s first emperor returning to the UK

The Terracotta Warriors will be returning to the UK, it has been announced by Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP.

In an exhibition to be staged at Liverpool’s World Museum in 2018, this will be the first time in more than 30 years that spectacular Class 1 National Cultural Treasures from the tomb of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, will be brought to a museum in the UK outside London.

The announcement has been made during the Secretary of State’s visit to the First Emperor’s burial site and tomb complex near Xi’an, as part of the UK-China People to People Dialogue (P2P); a key pillar in the UK-China relationship, celebrating links between the two peoples.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley said:

“The Terracotta Army represents one of the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century, and I am delighted that a selection of the warriors will be coming to Liverpool, for the first time in 2018. I am sure that the exhibition will be very warmly received by the people of Merseyside and beyond as Britain welcomes back the Terracotta Warriors.

“The exhibition will also encourage an ongoing cultural exchange between China and Britain, further progressing the relationship between our two nations and strengthening lasting ties.”

Planned for a run of more than six months, from February to October 2018, visitors to World Museum will be given a glimpse into the extraordinary story of Qin Shihuangdi, the First Emperor of China (221 to 206 BC). His vast burial site and tomb complex was discovered near Xi’an in North West China in 1974, and the story of the tomb’s Terracotta Warriors will be displayed alongside important artefacts and research relating to the formative years of the Chinese nation, from the pre-unification Qin Kings (307 to 221 BC) to the First Emperor’s legacy in the Han Dynasty (206BC to 220AD).

David Fleming, Director of National Museums Liverpool, said:

“We are hugely excited to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to bring an exhibition of such international importance to World Museum, and to be working with Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Bureau in this valuable cultural exchange. Following the success of our Mayas exhibition in 2015, and the re-opening of our Ancient Egypt gallery in 2017, this is a significant time for World Museum and National Museums Liverpool. It is really important that we stay in healthy dialogue with our international colleagues.”

This exhibition will be unprecedented in the UK, offering a new perspective on China’s history. Spanning three periods of more than 500 years, it is set to include a number of objects that have never been on show in this country before.

David continues:

“An exhibition of this scale is sure to attract visitors from all over the UK and Europe, with an unmissable opportunity to see artefacts of great historical importance in the flesh. Liverpool has the oldest Chinese community in Europe, and we are proud to be strengthening the city’s connections with other cultural organisations in China and creating an exhibition programme that continues to excite and inspire visitors from across the globe.”

Since 1974, archaeologists have unearthed more than 8,000 life-sized Terracotta Warriors near Xi’an – each with individual clothing, hair and facial features – and have located more than 600 pits around the Emperor’s mausoleum, covering an area of 22 square miles. New discoveries are continually coming to light, which indicate that Emperor Qin wished to take the entire universe with him into the afterlife.

The tradition of burial practice was continued by the Emperor’s successors in the later Han Dynasty, who constructed vast underground chambers and passageways filled with food and drink as well as clay servants and animals; everything the Emperors would need to ensure they enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle for eternity in their underground palaces.

World Museum’s 2018 exhibition will include material from museums and institutes from across Shaanxi Province – where the First Emperor and his ancestors came from – excavated over the last 40 years from the Imperial Mausoleum and selected tombs. These spectacular artefacts dating from 307 BC to the 2nd century AD, along with remarkable recent archaeological discoveries, not only shed light on the pursuit of immortality and how China’s Emperors prepared for the afterlife, but also help us to understand more about everyday life in China over two thousand years ago.

World Museum’s Terracotta Warriors exhibition will be a major part of Liverpool’s 2018 celebrations, marking 10 years since the city held the title of European Capital of Culture 2008.

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