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Updated on October 14, 2014

The Royal Ontario Museum will be exhibiting China's First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang and the Terracotta Army from June 26, 2010 until January 2, 2011.

The exhibition will be displayed in three sections following a chronological sequence of events – the emergence of a strong Qin State, China’s first emperor and his Terracotta Army, and the rise of the Han Dynasty.

The story starts at the end of the Xizhou Dynasty (the 9th century BC), 600 years before the birth of Emperor Qin, and ends at the beginning of western Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 221), 200 years after his death.

Terracotta Warriors
Terracotta Warriors
 General does not wear armour.  He wears the kind of cap tied with tassels that hang under his chin.  A belt with a buckle secures the double-layered tunic Only nine generals have been found at the site.
General does not wear armour. He wears the kind of cap tied with tassels that hang under his chin. A belt with a buckle secures the double-layered tunic Only nine generals have been found at the site.



The earliest prototypes of the terracotta warriors.
The Qin royal family's collection of jade.
The earliest war painting ever discovered in China.
Eighteen life-sized sculptures comprising generals, warriors, horses and acrobat entertainers newly discovered by archeologists working at the still-in-operation dig site in Xi'an, in China's Shaanxi province.

Over 250 artifacts will be displayed. This is considered to be one of the greatest in archaeological history. The ROM will showcase the full-sized terracotta figures and the largest collection of artifacts related to the Warrior Emperor Ying Zhen ever displayed in North America. Among them are 18 life-sized terracotta human figures, 2 horses and a wide range of military and civic personnel, with generals, soldiers, officers, archers, an acrobat and a charioteer. Each figure is unique and distinct.

Nearly a third of the artifacts have never been shown outside of China, making the ROM’s exhibition a landmark event. This exhibit will surpass the United States exhibits earlier of 2008 and 2009.

Qin Shi Huang Di Painting, from NHK Series Video
Qin Shi Huang Di Painting, from NHK Series Video


Other than highlighting Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor and the Terracotta soldiers, the exhibition will explore the history and social context of the unification of China. Exhibition visitors will learn about China's history during the political and social transitions of the various dynasties and the purpose of the terracotta sculptures.

In exploring the Chinese history, the exhibition will follow a chronological sequence of events, beginning in the 9th century BC. At that time, the Ying family (First Emperor) was the weakest noble clan serving the Royal Zhou Court. 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 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 thus ending 500 years of war and state rivalry, Ying Zheng became the king of all China. He pronounced himself First Emperor hoping that the Ying family’s rule would continue for many generations.

The presentation will also explore the political 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, but their size never rivaled that of the sculptures produced during the Qin Dynasty. The terracotta sculptures of the early Han Dynasty explored different themes representatiing daily life. A selection of Han terracotta artifacts that were unearthed from a Han Emperor’s tombs in the 1990s will be presented in this section including farm animals: pigs, dogs, sheep, goats and chickens which represented peaceful life of the Han period.


Ying Zheng, the First Emperor of China, ascended the throne of a small State called Qin in 246 BCE at the age of 13. By 221 BCE, at the age of 25, Ying had conquered every independent Chinese state, ending 500 years of warfare. He pronounced himself the First Emperor in the hope that the Ying family's rule would continue for thousands of generations.

Xian was the capital of China and the Terracotta warriors were unearthed in Xian.
Xian was the capital of China and the Terracotta warriors were unearthed in Xian.
Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China



During the Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty (221 B.C. - 206 B.C.), the emperor connected and extended the old fortification walls along the north of China that originated about 700 B.C. (over 2500 years ago), forming the Great Wall of China to stop invading barbarians from the north.

Emperor Qin standardized Chinese writing, currency, bureaucracy, law, scholarship, weights and measures. He also expanded the Chinese empire, built a capital in Xian, a system of roads, massive fortifications and palaces.

Though Qin Shi Huang (259-210 B.C.) unified China, he was a cruel ruler who readily killed or banished those who opposed him. He burnt virtually all the books that remained from previous regimes and even banned scholarly discussions of the past.

Warrior and Horse
Warrior and Horse


In 1974, nine local farmers were digging a well, and discovered a large pit of life-sized Chinese warriors and horses. The 1st site was built with earth and timber, 210 meters by 60 meters, and 4.6 to 6.5 meters high. In this site were 6,000 Terracotta soldiers. The entire tomb contains an army of 8,000 soldiers, horses, chariots and bronze weapons.

About 700,000 convicts worked in the tomb for 38 years, even after the Emperor's death. The aim was to build a complete army of warriors and horses in terracotta to serve the Emperor in the underworld after his death. The scale of the enterprise was overwhelming.




Terracotta Pit No. 1 is an east-west rectangular pit, measuring 252 yards long by 68 yards wide, and 16 feet deep. Every three yards, there is a wall separating the army into different columns. The floor was covered with black bricks.

Pit No. 1 has chariots and ranks of 6,000 soldiers arranged in a war formation.


Pit No. 2 is located 22 yards to the northeast of Terra Cotta Pit No.1. and covers an area of 7,176 square yards. Pit 2 is L-shaped, measuring 136 yards from east to west, 107 yards from north to south, and sixteen feet deep.

Pit No.2 is the most spectacular of the three pits. The combat formations in Pit No.2 are more complex, and the units of armed forces are more complete. There are over 80 war chariots, about 1,300 terracotta warriors and horses, and thousands of bronze weapons. The terra cotta general, the kneeling archer and the warrior with saddle horse in the pit were discovered here.


Pit No. 3 is the smallest of the three, and plays a more vital role than the other two. The warriors stand opposite to each other in two rows in the formation of a guard of honour and they hold bamboo weapons with pointed heads for self-defence. Unearthed also were deer horns and animal bones left in the North chamber.

Pit No. 3 is known as the command centre of the entire army with 70 high ranking officers, each holding a weapon. The terracotta warriors unearthed in this pit are more splendid than those found in the other pits, No.1 and No. 2.

The construction of the mausoleum took 11 years to complete.

As you enter round the first corner you are welcomed by a video in both Chinese and English. Everywhere in the exhibit you see mini screens telling you about the excavation, or massive screens highlighting the thousands of soldiers. The video footage and conversations had with the archaeologist and the farmer who discovered the army are informative.

Throughout the exhibit you will learn about the province of Qin, see surviving treasures from a Duke’s tomb,the miniature of a palace in Xian Yang which contained 300 palaces at the time. You learn about the upper classes, the weaponry and then eventually you make your way to the Terracotta Warriors. Ten statues in total, eight of which are humans and two are horses. Two generals and two horses are on display at the ROM, including a Calvalry Soldier, Civil Officer, Infantry Solider, Charioteer and an Acrobat are on display.

Over thousands of years the statutes have lost their colours which were painted. All weapons were real and the statutes were life size of which some stand 6 feet tall.

The exhibit of China's First Emperor and the Terracotta army can be considered a hit for the Royal Ontario Museum. It is supposed to last 6 months and draw about 300,000 visitors, but after 3 months, the museum had 199,000 visitors to its credit. The exhibit will not open in Calgary and British Columbia as expected. Those who will miss the show can still visit the Royal Ontario Museum until January 2, 2011. There is still time left before the exhibit travels to Montreal..

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China's First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang

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Did you know Qin Shi Huang built an army of 8000 terracotta soldiers in his tomb to protect him after death?

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© 2010 einron


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    • einron profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA


    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      7 years ago

      Dearest Einron!

      Thank you for this amazing Hub!! I actually have 3 soldiers, 1 general and 2 horses, 12" tall, replicas of the terracotta Army on my livingroom coffee table; they are stunning!!

      It's such a facinating story!! I didn't know the third chamber was the most important!! Thank you so much for creating and sharing this GREAT Hub!!

      Blessings and Namaste' always, Earth Angel!!

    • einron profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

      Michael Adams

      Thanks for visiting! The terracotta army is quite interesting for it was buried over 2200 years ago and to find the models of the army still intact are quite remarkable, though the colours have faded.

      Also not knowing about the history of China myself, I learn something about the history of China as a united kingdom is fascinating. I hope you learn something by reading the hub. Peace!

    • Michael Adams1959 profile image

      Isaiah Michael 

      8 years ago from Wherever God leads us.

      This was on exhibit here in our area at the dayton art museum, never went to see it but it drew large crowds


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