qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Made in China

I got tickets for The First Emperor exhibiton some months ago; today we ventured into London to see the Terracotta Army (or at least a small part of it). There is some novelty in housing the exhibition in the Reading Room in the Great Court - in some ways it's a good use of space (one can't imagine the Reading Room is all that good for study these days, being open to the hoi polloi) but at the same time it's a bit disorienting. The BM exhibitons tend to be on a smaller scale than those at the Tate or RA, so that worked well also, though we queued to enter the exhibition in our timed slot, then joined the next queue, then fought our way round the exhibits - as predicted, it is a very popular exhibiton.

Many of the exhibits focus on the historic and political changes in China as the King of Qin conquered the neighbouring states - for example, weapon fragments from the Warring States period, and standardisation of money, weights and measures, and language. The warriors (and other pieces; the complex included chariots, officials, dancers and musicians) are in the final room, impressively over-life-size even today (and significantly larger than life-size for their time). It does beg the question, given that the location of the Emperor's tomb was well-known, and that there was a legend of a river of mercury running inside it, why a local farmer should have chosen to sink a well just a couple of kilometres away from it in 1974, thus making the discovery of the Terracotta Army; but maybe the legend was not considered seriously, or knowledge of it suppressed by the politics of the time. (Current research indicates high concentrations of mercury around the tomb site.) Archaeologists have chosen not to excavate the tomb itself, preferring geophysical survey and hoping for future non-invasive work. Of course this leaves some details tantalisingly unknown, but given the fate of Silbury Hill, maybe discretion is for the best.
Tags: exhibitions, london
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