For as long as I’ve known of their existence I have longed to see them. Forever after I assumed that meant going to China and, given our travel plans, China always seemed forever away. It never really occurred to me that they might actually come here. You see, they don’t get around much and I can’t really blame them, being clay and all.
It was a rendezvous roughly 2,259 years in the making, but here in San Francisco, of all places, I finally got to visit briefly with China’s Terracotta Army. Built to protect the First Emperor in the afterlife, this life-sized army of over 8,000 soldiers, horses and chariots is the largest of its kind ever constructed. Or so we think.
After all, Qin Shi Huang’s army remained buried for thousands of years before it was discovered by chance in 1974. Who’s to say others don’t exist as yet undiscovered elsewhere?
Even so, other armies would need more than just large numbers of men and horses to claim bragging rights. They’d also need to match this one’s stunning variety where each warrior is outfitted with his own unique armor, weapons and posture. They even have different heights, hair styles and facial expressions.
They’d also need to top the elaborate necropolis uncovered at Qin Shi Huang’s burial site, which includes offices, reception halls, stables, sacrificial pits, an armory, an entertainment arena and an imperial zoo; all intended to reconstruct the late emperor’s Imperial Palace for him in the afterlife.
Sadly, not all of that could make the trip. Only about twenty figures made their way to San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum. To see the rest, or at least the two thousand figures they’ve unearthed so far, we’ll have to finally make a pilgrimage to where they live, in Xian, China.