I remember first hearing about this amazing Chinese archaeological find decades ago. It may even have been when it was first discovered, although I was a pretty self-absorbed teenager back in the 1970s. It seems like it was always a part of my imagination, an entire city built underground, filled with wonders, first and foremost of which was an entire population made of terracotta clay – like flowerpots. Mostly an army, but others as well, and animals, inhabiting a place where rivers ran with mercury, all built by an emperor who wanted to be immortal.
I have wanted to go see that terracotta city for what seems like forever, but a trip to China has never been in the cards.
Well, yesterday, China came to see me. Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is one of only two American stops (the other will be in Philadelphia) on a tour of a wonderful exhibit of the Terracotta Warriors, and yesterday my friend Loralee and I went to see it.
It was amazing. I really don’t have words. The story and history behind the terracotta army beggar belief, but to see the actual statues, and learn about how they were made, and why, and for whom…
Anyway, I may not have words, but I do have photos, and here are some of them. If you’re going to be anywhere near Seattle between now and September (and if you can still get a ticket – this exhibit has been wildly popular) or if you’re going to be in Philadelphia when it’s open there, all I can say is – GO. It’s an amazing and wonderful thing, and everyone who can should see it.
They haven’t opened the emperor’s actual tomb, both because they’re afraid they’ll destroy it unintentionally, and because the levels of mercury in the soil above the tomb are so toxic that it’s completely unsafe for anyone to do so. Maybe someday they will open it, if they can ever figure out how to solve those two problems first. But in the meantime, all we can do is wonder. And wow, do I wonder.