Sep 11, 2010

Visit Toronto see the Terra Cotta Army

After 2000 years the amazing Terra Cotta Warriors once again saw the light of day in 1974 when farmers near Xian, China accidentally discovered them. Now several of the warriors are on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. I had always wanted to see the Terra Cotta soldiers and even though John and I have been to China a couple of times we have never been to Xian. China is usually considered the third largest country in the world after Russia and Canada. Xian was too far from the coastal cities we visited so we were excited to learn we could see the Terra Cotta Warriors in Toronto.

The Terra Cotta Warriors are amazing. And, to think they are 2000 years old and are in such excellent shape. The Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors were discovered when farmers in northern China unearthed fragments of a terra cotta figure while drilling for water near the city of Xian. It turned out to be one of the greatest archeological finds in history.

In 209 BCE the Terra Cotta Army was buried with Ying Zheng, the First Emperor of Qin, to help him rule in the afterlife. Construction of his mausoleum, which began in 246 BCE involved 700,000 workers. It is estimated that the Terra Cotta Army is made up of 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the three discovered pits. Besides soldiers, chariots, horses, there are acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. One incredible aspect of the army is that no two soldiers are exactly alike. The historian of the time recorded that besides his army, the Emperor of Qin was buried with palaces, utensils and other objects he would need in the afterlife.

China's Terracotta Warriors will be on display at The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto until January 2, 2011. It is the largest collection of artifacts related to the warrior emperor ever displayed in North America and includes 10 life-sized terracotta figures from the pits of the First Emperor's Terracotta Army.

The ROM, as the Royal Ontario Museum is affectionately called, has displays tracing key moments in history before, during and after the lifetime of Ying Zheng. The exhibition is showcasing over 250 artifacts from the first millennium BCE. 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 even more remarkable.

The Terra Cotta Warriors are often called the eighth wonder of the world. In 1987 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added the site to the official list of World Heritage Sites.

While at the ROM make time for their other fascinating exhibits that range from dinosaurs to ancient civilizations to contemporary displays. The ROM, Canada’s largest museum of history and culture, is immediately recognizable by the Lee-Chin Crystal addition to the front of the museum.

John and I stayed at the InterContinental Hotel on Bloor Street, which is across the street from the ROM. After visiting the Terra Cotta Warriors we were hungry for dim sum and as luck would have it there was a Chinese restaurant not far from the hotel. Actually there were several Asian restaurants nearby – such is the diversity of Toronto.