Year 1 / Issue 10 / The Emperor’s underground Army

The Emperor’s Underground Army
Mei Shao

After having enjoyed an exceptionally wonderful summer this year, a lot of people start to wonder how to cope with the coming winter which is predicted to be colder than average. The same is true with pastime. Cold weather and snow have denied people of most of the outdoor activities. Fortunately Toronto is never lacking in things to do. One nice option to escape the cold is to indulge yourself in one of the museums, browsing through the artifacts on exhibition.

This year, The Warrior Emperor and China's Terracotta Army premieres at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and runs until January 2, 2011. The exhibition showcases artifacts from the tomb complex of China's First Emperor - the largest tomb complex in China, and possibly the world.

This exhibition was brought from Xi’an China, where the tomb complex was first discovered in 1974 and then made into a museum in 1979. 

According to historical record, Emperor Ying Zheng, the first Emperor of China, also known as Qin Shi Huang (BC259-BC210), started the construction of his tomb when he was 13 and it took 38 years to finish it. As great an emperor as he was, Ying Zheng was very superstitious about after life. He wanted to bring and build everything for his afterlife, including a huge army of nearly 8000 full sized terracotta warriors and horses, not to mention all the other artifacts and treasures buried in this tomb.  The accidentally unearthed tomb complex, or the terracotta army pits, has turned out to be one of the greatest archaeological finds in history.

There have been recent new discovery of colored terracotta statues. However, not many people have seen them. When the colored terracotta was first exposed to the air, the color faded quickly due to the chemical reaction with the oxygen in the air. Researchers are still to find ways to preserve the colors when in direct contact with the air so that one day the general public will be able to see these beautiful and magnificent artifacts. The warriors are often referenced as the eighth wonder of the world and in 1987 the site was added to the official list of World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

Created by the ROM with their partners in China, The Warrior Emperor and China's Terracotta Army features the largest collection of artifacts related to the warrior emperor ever displayed in North America, alongside 10 life-sized terracotta figures from the pits of the First Emperor's Terracotta Army. The exhibition is showcasing over 250 artifacts from the first millennium BC, on loan from more than a dozen archaeological institutes and museums in Shaanxi Province. Nearly a third of the artifacts on display have never been shown outside of China, and some have never been publicly displayed anywhere, making the ROM's exhibition a landmark event.

For a travel advent, you may argue it’s more interesting and sensational to visit the real army pit rather than the artifacts on display in a museum. Yes, to a certain extent, that is correct. However, at the pit, one can only watch the terracotta warriors from a distance, 10 meters away and above. At the exhibition, on the other hand, one can have a close 360 degree view of the artifacts. Therefore, if you are into museums and Chinese history, make sure not to miss this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.

You can find more details on the exhibition by visiting Royal Ontario Museum website at: