Antiques PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Antiques PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Terracotta Army at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

The launch of the 2010-2012 Canadian national tour of The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army was announced at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).

At the event, attended by media and special guests including The Honourable Michael Chan, Ontario Minister of Tourism and Culture, it was confirmed that the Government of China has named the ROM as the Canadian tour’s organizing museum, as well as its premiere venue. The national tour, marking the first time that the Terracotta Army has appeared in Canada, will encompass four venues across the country. Following the ROM’s engagement, commencing in late June 2010, the exhibition will travel to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary and the Royal BC Museum in Victoria. Representatives from each of these provincial museums were in attendance at the announcement.


The exhibition showcases one of the most significant archaeological finds in history: the 1974 discovery, in China’s northern Shaanxi province, of thousands of life-sized terracotta sculptures of Chinese warriors. These extraordinary figures, along with countless treasures yet to be uncovered in the elaborate underground tomb complex of China’s First Emperor, were created during the Qin Dynasty, 2,200 years ago.

“This truly awe-inspiring exhibit will be the must-see attraction of 2010 for visitors to the ROM,” said Michael Chan, Minister of Tourism and Culture. “The Terracotta Army exhibit is yet another example of the current cultural renaissance that is helping re-establish Toronto as an exciting centre of creativity and excellence.

“The ROM takes great pride in being chosen as the organizing museum for this important Canadian tour,” states William Thorsell, the ROM’s Director and CEO. “We look forward to introducing our visitors to China’s rich cultural legacy, focusing on these extraordinary terracotta warriors. We are thrilled to present them to Canadian audiences and honoured to be accorded this sign of respect and trust by the Government of China.”

Dr. Chen Shen, Senior Curator and Bishop White Chair of Far Eastern Art and Archaeology in the ROM’s World Cultures department is the exhibition’s curator and responsible for developing the content of the Canadian tour. Dr. Shen emphasizes, “This Canadian national tour is a newly developed and contextually different presentation than previous, international displays. The number of full sized warriors and the exhibition’s scope makes this the largest display of the First Emperor’s terracotta army ever to be seen in North America. Many of the artifacts displayed during the upcoming Canadian tour have never before left China. In fact, some have not yet been displayed in any museum in China. This is a major triumph for the ROM and its Canadian tour partners.””

The Canadian National Tour
The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army will launch at the ROM late June 2010. Following this premiere engagement, the exhibition will then travel to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in early 2011, followed by Calgary’s Glenbow Museum in summer/fall 2011*, and Victoria’s Royal BC Museum in late 2011 to 2012.

The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army will be showcased in the Garfield Weston Exhibition Hall on Level B2 of the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. The ROM’s engagement is presented by the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation. “The Foundation takes great pleasure in joining with the Royal Ontario Museum and the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center to present the premiere Canadian engagement of The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army,” says Robert H. N. Ho, Founder of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation. “The Foundation believes that this exhibition will promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of ancient Chinese civilization. It is a fine example of important cross-cultural exchange between museums in China and Canada.”

“The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is proud to be associated with this major pan Canadian archaeological exhibition featuring these exceptional artifacts, lent by China. As part of our global vision, this exhibition confirms our strong desire to give greater visibility to ancient cultures. This approach is reflected in the recent addition to our staff of our first Curator of Asian Art, Laura Vigo, and will be seen in the upcoming reinstallation of our collections,” explained Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

“Glenbow is thrilled to be the prospective fourth partner in this exciting national tour. Pending final approval, Glenbow is eager to expose Alberta audiences to these world renowned Chinese treasures,” said Kirstin Evenden, President and CEO of Glenbow Museum.

“The story of China’s First Emperor and his Terracotta Army is one of the most captivating in human history,” said Pauline Rafferty, CEO of the Royal BC Museum. “We are delighted to bring this phenomenal exhibition to British Columbia to give our visitors this rare opportunity to learn about a fascinating culture and this remarkable archaeological discovery.”

The Exhibition and the First Emperor
Since 1974, archaeologists have unearthed approximately 2,000 full-sized terracotta warriors and horses from three ancient pits. Located near the First Emperor’s mausoleum complex, the terracotta site is only a small component of the largest tomb construction in China. It is also the location of the country’s first on-site museum. As this site continues to be excavated, archaeologists now use innovative conservation techniques to preserve the fragile colours on these painted warriors. With scores yet to be excavated, the terracotta figures, in magnificent military formations, are now known to number nearly 8,000, and are often referenced as the eighth wonder of the world. In 1987, the site was added to the official list of World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army will feature 120 sets of loan objects, encompassing over 250 artifacts, dated to the first millennium BC. Among them are impressive 18 life-sized terracotta sculptures, comprising 16 human figures and 2 horses. These figures depict a wide range of military and civic personnel, including generals, armoured soldiers, lower ranking officers, archers, an acrobat, a cavalryman, and a charioteer. Also included are six life-sized warrior heads and three half-sized kneeling servants. Each figure is unique, exquisitely executed and accorded a distinct personality.

The exhibition will also include numerous stellar objects making their North American debut. Loaned by more than a dozen of the most important archaeological institutes and museums in Shaanxi Province, nearly thirty per cent of the featured objects have never before traveled outside China.

As well as highlighting the life and times of Qin Shihuangdi, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, and the terracotta soldiers produced during his lifetime, the exhibition will explore the figures in a broad historical and social context. Exhibition visitors will learn about China’s rich history during these periods and about the political and social transitions that took place during various dynasties, changes inevitably influencing the form, style and purpose of the terracotta sculptures.

In exploring the important transformation period in early Chinese history, the exhibition will follow a chronological sequence of events, beginning in the 9th century BC. At that time, the Ying family was the weakest noble clan serving the Royal Zhou Court. However, as a result of its military prowess and involvement in rescuing the ruling family, the Ying family acquired lands and was granted the title of Duke of Qin. While Qin began as a weak, marginal lordship, it eventually developed into one of the most powerful states in the land.

The exhibition will also focus on the First Emperor’s life and legacy, and the emergence of his Terracotta Army. Ying Zheng ascended the throne of the State of Qin in 246 BC, at the age of 13. In 221 BC, after conquering the last independent Chinese state to end 500 years of war and state rivalry, Ying Zheng became king of all China. On this unprecedented accomplishment and to demonstrate his power and position, he pronounced himself First Emperor in the hope that the Ying family’s rule would continue for thousands of generations. Many objects seen in this area of the exhibition are considered national treasures of China. They constitute the largest number of full-sized figures to ever tour North America.

The presentation will also explore the political and social changes that took place with the rise of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 221) following the First Emperor’s sudden death in 210 BC. While terracotta warriors continued to play a significant role during this time, their size never rivaled that of the sculptures produced during the Qin Dynasty. Much smaller and produced in large groupings, the terracotta sculptures of the early Han Dynasty explored different themes and were far more representative of daily life. An interesting selection of Han terracotta artifacts that were unearthed from a Han Emperor’s tombs in the 1990s will be presented in this section: multi-coloured terracotta soldiers, beautiful terracotta ladies and an assortment of farm animals, including pigs, dogs, sheep, goats and chickens – all speaking to the relatively peaceful life of the period.

Ying Zheng remains a controversial figure in Chinese history. While his autocratic rule lasted 37 years and was heavily marked by tyranny and bloodshed, he also accomplished much during his reign, such as establishing a strong central government, unifying law code and standardizing coinage, weights and measures, as well as starting a national road and canal system. It is, however, the terracotta warriors that constitute the most tangible evidence of Ying Zheng’s legacy. Beginning at age 13 and continuing over his reign, he oversaw approximately 700,000 workers in constructing an enormous mausoleum with life-sized terracotta warriors and other beautiful sculptures. Believed to have been sparked partly by a series of assassination attempts, Ying Zheng felt the complex and its clay guardians would protect him in the afterlife. Recent archaeological discoveries indicate that this underground tomb complex is far larger than initially thought and resembles an entire underground palace,
complete with royal gardens.

Archaeological work is ongoing on the site and the inclusion of these recent finds in the exhibition emphasizes the site’s ongoing importance to archaeologists and scholars.

This exhibition was organized by the Royal Ontario Museum in partnership with the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre, People’s Republic of China, with the collaboration of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, and the Royal BC Museum, Victoria.