Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bowers Museum's Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors

By: Jon dela Cruz
For FilipinOnline

I guess I can say I was at the right place and at the right time.

The Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor exhibit is one of the most amazing archeological findings of the 20th century. Often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness its grandeur was just too much for me to pass-up. The exhibit runs through October 16.

After attending my high school reunion in SoCal's Dana Point, I spent my remaining weekend with my daughter in the Newport area. It didn't take me a beat to say "YES" when my daughter, Michelle, asked me if I want to go to Bowers Museum in Sta Ana, Calif. to see China's national treasure, the Terra Cotta warriors. The museum presents the largest exhibit of Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Army ever seen outside of China.

My wife and I are both so into this Terra Cotta warriors, you can see replicas of them scattered around our house.

China's First Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the boy king who united the country in 221 BC and began construction of the first Great wall, was not only obsessed with building but also a fanatic about death. After experimenting with potions to prolong his life, the megalomaniac king abdicated himself to death on his own terms. He would build a standing army of 8,000 soldiers to enforce his rule over the afterlife.

Since his birth in 259 B.C., China's First Emperor was destined to become one of the most important political leaders to rule the country. Beginning at age 13, and for the next 38 years, he assigned over 700,000 workers to build an enormous mausoleum with life-size terra cotta warriors to protect him throughout eternity. The figures vary in height (6ft–6ft 5 in), according to their roles, the tallest being the Generals. The figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians.

Current estimates are that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army, there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits. The exhibition provides a deeper knowledge of this historical site and showcases 100 sets of objects, which includes approximately 20 life-size figures.

A noted egomaniac, Qin Shi Huang was also known for building large, extravagant structures. Almost immediately after taking power, he began construction on a large wall that would link up bits and pieces of existing defensive walls throughout the country. This would become the forerunner to the Great Wall that's still in existence, most of which was completed under a later dynasty.

This terra cotta army of soldiers, servants, musicians, acrobats, and animals silently remained underground for two thousand years. Until, in 1974, Chinese farmers digging a well made the startling discovery of a terra cotta head. The chariot is one of the only two reproductions displayed at Bowers Museum which is a fifty (50) percent scaled down of the original.

It was noted that the emperor suffered from extreme paranoia as a result of several attempts on his life from outsiders and from within the walls of his palace. He moved from one palace to another to avoid future effort to overthrow him.

Just three years after Qin Shi Huang's death in 210 B.C., the Qin dynasty was overthrown. The imperial system that he'd set in motion, however, would remain at work in China until 1912, when the last Emperor abdicated and China became a Republic.

Despite his reputation as an autocratic ruler, Emperor Qin Shi Huang is still regarded by many today as a pivotal figure in Chinese history whose unification of China has endured for more than two millennia.

[The writer at the exhibit]
So if you happen to be in Southern California, don't miss out on this outstanding array of China's cultural treasure. Visit Bowers museum website at After its first stop in Southern California, the exhibit travels to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the National Geographic Society museum in Washington in 2009.

There are several exciting ways to experience Bowers museum besides the five (5) permanent and the on-going exhibitions. On the date of my visit, we were treated to some activities that went on at the museum's courtyard. Persian and Mexican non-profit groups rendered their own cultural presentations that include music, dances and arts displays. Weekends are usually crowded due to the Terra Cotta warriors exhibit and it is advisable to call or buy tickets in advance. Cameras are allowed in the facility except inside the exhibit areas. So bring your tiniest camera and you maybe able to capture some memorable photos for keeps but you didn't hear that from me.

Ticket, museum hours, and parking information:
Address: 2002 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706
Parking Fee - $8.00 or free at the sourrounding streets
Bowers Museum: (714) 567-3600

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 10 AM-4 PM; Friday, 10 AM-8 PM; Sunday-Saturday, 10 AM-4 PM; The fourth Thursday of every month, 10 AM-8 PM

All ticket prices include the exhibition audio tour and access to all other museum galleries.
Weekdays: $25 adults, $19 students and seniors (62+), *$8 children 6-17
Weekends: $27 adults, $21 students and seniors (62+)
Admission for children under 6 is free*Valid June 24 - September 1. Weekdays Only. Must be accompanied by a full price paid adult. Cannot be combined with any other offer or discount.

Tickets are currently on sale for Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor. This is a date and time stamped, specially ticketed exhibition. The last entry is one hour before the museum closes. Tickets can be purchased at the Visitors Services desk at the Bowers Museum, online or via phone through Ticketmaster: 877.250.8999.

Sta Ana residents - Free admission to the Bowers' permanent exhibits to Santa Ana residents, with proof of residency (e.g., driver's license, utility bill, etc), on the first Sunday and third Tuesdays of every month.
Target Free Sundays - Starting Sunday, October 5, visitors to the Bowers can enjoy free access to the museum and all activities on the first Sunday of every month.
PIMCO's Free Friday Nights - Free admission for up to 100 visitors per hour at 4:00, 5:00, 6:00 and 7:00 pm. The museum will close at 8:00 pm.

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