Terra Cotta Warriors Conquer Washington, DC

Washington Travel Blog

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National Geographic Musuem

The buzz had been going on for a while about this show: an exhibit on the famous Terra Cotta Warriors from Xian, China, would be visiting Washington, DC! The touring exhibit would be at National Geographic Musuem from November 2009 through March 2010. Susan and I knew we had to see it. Short of visiting Xian, this would be a unique opportunity to see the figures. (I want to visit Xian one day, but who knows when that will be!) The exhibit has been a hit. It was mobbed over the Christmas holidays. Nearly a dozen people I know have already been to see it. Susan and I had elected to see the warriors on Valentine's Day weeekend and made our reservation accordingly.

Terra Cotta Wariors banner
(One must reserve tickets well in advance.) Since then, the record snowstorms have hit Washington. "The Geographic" was closed part of the time along with everything else in the city. Were we going to miss the warriors?  Fortunately, roads were open by Friday. So, on Saturday morning, we headed out of our snowy subdivision and north on I-395.

Driving into the city was not bad. We found all-day Saturday garage parking for $8 across the street from the National Geographic. Our timed tickets for for 1:00 p.m. admission and we had about a half hour to look at the gift shop before queueing for the exhibit. (Photography was not permitted in the exhibit, though there were replica figures for photo ops afterwards.)

The exhibit presents a description of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shihuangdi (259-210 BC), and the historical context in which he ruled and in which the terra cotta warriors were created.

Replica Terra Cotta Warrior (Officer)
It is estimated that 6,000 terra cotta figures were created between 221 and 210 BC to guard the emperor's tomb. They were set in four pits, facing the east to ward off enemies. (Natural barriers were expected to guard the north, west, and south.) Production ceased when the emperor died unexpectedly. In addition to figures of soldiers, were officers, musicians, strongmen, court officials, and scribes. Everything to keep the tempo of the imperial court going on in the afterlife. (There are obvious comparisons to draw with figures placed in Egyptian tombs, but none of the interpretive signage touched on that. A kneeling scribe assumes the same position as often-seen Egyptian scribe figures.) About fifteen terra cotta figures were on dispaly along with a terra cotta cavalry horse and other artifacts.
Me with a Terra Cotta Warrior
 The figures are fascinating. They are sufficiently detailed to show individual facial features, fabric textures, boot laces, cap laces, ribbons, flowing scarves, and more. The figures were painted at one time, and bits of paint can still be seen. (I learned that there were eight basic facial styles that were used, with noses, mouths, etc., mixed and matched to create the individual variety.) Physical variations show a muscular Strong Man and a portly middle-aged officer. One cavalryman is show standing next to his horse, holding the reins. (The costume detail has increased our knowledge of ancient Chinese attire, weaponry, and saddles and riding equipment.)

Truely, it was a fascinating exhibit. It was cramped for the size of the crowd that attened, but I was happy to have seen some of the Terra Cotta Warriors up close.

Terra Cotta Warrior reproduction (Archer)

After the exhibit, we had a late lunch at Daily Grill on Connecticut Avenue. This neighborhood of Washington, DC, is known as the Golden Triangle. (The neighborhood is bounded by Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire Avenunes. I'm not sure how often it is frequented by visitors to Washington, but it is well worth a look after seeing the monuments and msuems. It's full of restaurants, shops, boutiques, and bars to try.  There are a few historical sites to note here, too. They're not of the national kind, but are ones that lend Washington its character as city. The Cathedral of St. Mathew on Rhode Island Avenue at Connecticut Avenue is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. It's named for the patron saint of civil servants.

Susan with a Terra Cotta Warrior
The Meditarranean-hued church combines Byzantine and Romanesque architectural elements and was compled in 1895. (President Kennedy's funeral was held here.) On M Street Across from the National Geographic complex is the Charles Sumner School. Sumner School was built in 1872 as a school for African-American students in the then-segregated District of Columbia school sytem. It's an imposing structure and is now a museum.

1morespicy says:
I saw this exhibit when it was in London. It was crazy busy and you had to queue to look at anything! I'd love to see the real thing.
Posted on: Feb 14, 2010
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National Geographic Musuem
National Geographic Musuem
Terra Cotta Wariors banner
Terra Cotta Wariors banner
Replica Terra Cotta Warrior (Offic…
Replica Terra Cotta Warrior (Offi…
Me with a Terra Cotta Warrior
Me with a Terra Cotta Warrior
Terra Cotta Warrior reproduction (…
Terra Cotta Warrior reproduction …
Susan with a Terra Cotta Warrior
Susan with a Terra Cotta Warrior
St. Matthews Cathedral (1895)
St. Matthew's Cathedral (1895)
Sumner School (1872)
Sumner School (1872)
Sumner School steeple
Sumner School steeple
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Lunch at Daily Grill
Daily Grill is one of many enjoyable restaurants in the Dupont Circle/Golden Triangle neighborhoods of Washington. We enjoyed lunch here after seeing … read entire review
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photo by: b93sp