Liverpool’s long-awaited Terracotta Warriors exhibition will open today (Friday 9 February), welcomed by a city in celebration mode, poised to mark Chinese New Year like never before.
Proud home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe, China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors exhibition is being welcomed just in time for the Year of the Dog, and during a year of celebrations marking 10 years since the city’s status as European Capital of Culture in 2008.
On display until 28 October 2018, the eight and a half-month exhibition run will see hundreds of thousands of people flocking to Liverpool, taking World Museum’s visitor numbers to more than 7 million since 2008, Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture Year. In addition to seeing some of the world’s greatest archaeological discoveries, visitors can expect to be taken on a magical journey through China’s history and be immersed in the world of the Terracotta Warriors.
David Fleming, Director of National Museums Liverpool, said: “The past ten years have been an absolute triumph for culture in Liverpool, and we are overjoyed to be able to mark this milestone year with our biggest exhibition yet; one that can’t be seen anywhere else in Europe.
“World Museum is one of the jewels in Liverpool’s cultural crown. It’s been in its current location since 1860 and welcomes almost 700,000 visitors every year. The Terracotta Warriors exhibition is surely one of the most important exhibitions we have ever held here. We cannot wait to share this spectacular show with the city’s people and welcome visitors from across the UK to witness this unmissable opportunity to see some of the Terracotta Army up close.”
Sharon Granville, Executive Director of Collections and Estate at National Museums Liverpool, said: “The team has been working very closely with our museum colleagues in China to bring this collection of Warriors and many other significant discoveries to the UK. We’re so looking forward to opening the doors, and we thank our partners in this endeavour, especially the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Tianjin Airlines, Wendy Wu Tours, The Swire Charitable Trust, Unilever and The Foyle Foundation. I urge everyone to attend this ‘must see’ show – the highlight of Liverpool’s 10th anniversary celebrations as European Capital of Culture in 2018.”
Spanning almost 1,000 years, this blockbuster exhibition tells the story of the formative years of the Chinese nation, from the pre-unification Qin Kings, to the rise of the Qin State and unification of China by the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang in 221 BC, followed by the legacy of his achievements in the succeeding Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD).
Having travelled 5,000 miles to be in the city, ten life-size figures – including a terracotta cavalry horse – will be on display as part of a collection of more than 180 spectacular artefacts from Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s vast burial complex, covering an area of 56 square kilometres in Shaanxi Province, North West China. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to come face to face with Warriors from the site and witness a vast range of other exquisite objects from the Qin and Han dynasties; some of which have never been displayed in the UK before.
DCMS Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, said “The Terracotta Warriors are an iconic cultural treasure produced by ancient China. Bringing them to Liverpool is a real coup and testament to the strength of the UK-China cultural relationship.
“This exhibition will boost tourism to the region, attract visitors from across the UK and Europe and highlights once again that Liverpool is a world class destination for arts and culture.”
Shaanxi Province in North West China was home to the First Qin Emperor and his ancestors. Since the Warriors were first discovered by chance in 1974, over the last 40 years archaeologists working near Xi’an, the ancient capital of China, have uncovered three large pits of life-size Terracotta Warriors to the east of the Emperor’s mausoleum, each with their own individual clothing, hair and facial features, along with horses and war chariots. 2,000 figures have been uncovered but there are estimated to be around 8,000 figures in total.
Remarkable new discoveries are continually coming to light, which indicate that Emperor Qin Shi Huang wished to take the entire universe into the afterlife. The scale and lavishness of his burial site and the mystery of the Emperor’s mausoleum forms a major component of the exhibition.
The mausoleum itself remains unopened. The team behind the exhibition has sought to uncover its mysteries using emerging technologies and digital content to interpret accounts of the site in a unique and magical way, transporting visitors into the world from which the Terracotta Warriors emerged. Elsewhere in the exhibition digital technology has been used to provide an evocative backdrop to the historical collections.
The exhibition will be accompanied by an exciting programme of activities for schools and a public events programme throughout the duration of its run. It coincides with Liverpool’s China Dream season; an eight month-long season of exhibitions, performances and events which aim to shine a light on modern Chinese culture and explore the relationship between China and the UK. Events already announced include this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations which includes thousands of Chinese lanterns lining city streets, a lion dance taking place on Saturday 10 February, and the main weekend of celebrations which takes place from the 16 to 18 February.