Thursday, November 19, 2009

Frozen in Time

I got a unique opportunity last night. It was a chance to not only get a sneak peak at the National Geographic Society’s latest exhibit, Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, but also to photograph these pretty amazing artifacts.

The preview only lasted an hour, but this was more than enough time to appreciate the timeless warriors and the other treasures in the exhibit. The exhibit at the National Geographic Museum (17th and M NW) runs from today through March 31, 2010.

The boilerplate: “Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor provides an in-depth look at the enormous tomb complex of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi that contained thousands of terra cotta warriors intended to protect him in the afterlife. The warriors were discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers digging a well near Xi’an in Shaanxi province. When archaeologists began excavating the area, they uncovered a subterranean vault containing fragments of thousands of terra cotta figures in three large pits. More than 1,000 life-size figures have been restored as part of the site’s ongoing excavation.”

Along with the nine terra cotta warriors, two musicians, the strongman, court official, stable attendant and a horse, the exhibit also has bronze animals, stone armor, coins and jade ornaments.

Trust me, it’ll be worth the price of admission. Or, if you’re more frugal-minded, the Terra Cotta Warriors will be open late on Wednesdays (till 9 p.m.) and there will be 200 free, same-day tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis. Line up by 5:30 p.m. for your chance at a free viewing.

And now, on to what you came here for, the pictures. And these pictures are pretty special to me because, although they were allowed last night, cameras won't be allowed into the exhibit. Sorry 'bout that.


One of the emperor's guardians. As big as this picture is, it still doesn't begin to show the detail and precision of the ancient craftsmen who made it.

A chariot, just in case the boss man wanted to go for a drive around the afterlife.

Another of Qin Shihuangdi's men-at arms who, before being rudely dug up, was a chariot driver. Otherwise, that pose would be kind of silly.

The stable attendant. I spent most of my time around this guy, fascinated by its beauty. If you look closely at the horse's mouth, you'll see the artisans even sculpted its teeth. I'm guessing that somewhere there is a stash of terra cotta oats.


The stable boy in profile.

But can he make it drink?

I couldn't quite get all of the horse into this frame...

Like I said, I think it was the detail of the bridle and reins that most amazed me.

That was until I noticed how in the sculpting/casting process, they even remembered to include the hair on this guy.


For those long, everlasting nights in the afterlife, the emperor brought along his own entertainment. But, like many entertainers who hang around too long, they've come to show their age. Kidding, but you can see the level of restoration that's gone into some of the figures.

This guy is known as "The Sitting Musician."

"The Kneeling Musician" and behind him is "The Strongman," who, apparently, wasn't strong enough to keep his head. You can't see it in this picture, but the big fella may have made a trip to Sleepy Hollow.
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Terra cotta statues isn't the only thing the exhibit has to offer.

This piece of jade is about the size of a silver dollar, making those carvings pretty darn impressive.

Even the emperor's trash is interesting. Here we have some defective roof tiles found outside a workshop. Art is where you find it.
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And, finally, because I liked it so much, I call this one "The Horse and His Boy."

Happy trails (and go see the exhibit).

10 comments:

Liebchen said...

I love the photos, and the fact that you could capture so much of the detail.

As for the last one, I have to ask: is the C.S. Lewis title as a caption intentional? Or just a happy coincidence? Either way, it's a great shot.

lacochran said...

Leave it to you to photograph a horse's ass. But, seriously, these are good/interesting. The straight-on look of the horses face, complete with flared nostrils, is my favorite.

FoggyDew said...

Liebchen - The CoN reference is, indeed, intentional. Thanks for noticing.

la - Not often you get a chance to photograph a ancient horse's ass, how could I pass up this opportunity?

Lisa said...

Those photos are wonderful. I really want to see this exhibit.

[F]oxymoron said...

I just had an ah-ha moment.

At the NatGeo event I remember walking past this guy and suddenly thinking, "damn, I know this person. But how?"

That guy was you!

The exhibit is well done... and much cheaper than flying to China.

FoggyDew said...

Lisa - I recommend it, and it's even pretty stroller-friendly with nice, wide asiles.

Foxy - Oh, yeah....

LiLu said...

"I couldn't quite get all of the horse into this frame..."

I call bullhockey on that one.

Meghan said...

That exhibit looks amazing. Nice ass shot.

FoggyDew said...

LiLu - It's the truth! Really! I just didn't mention I was using a wide-angle zoom and could have, if I'd wanted to, made the frame bigger.

Meghan - It is pretty neat. Now if only they'd had a terra cotta donkey there, then I could have gotten an ass shot of an ass.

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