When the Chinese Emperor Qin Shihuang died in 210 BC, he took his royal court and over 7,000 of his soldiers with him to the grave. But they were all made of clay. Dubbed the “ghost army,” over 7,000 terracotta warriors were built by craftsmen and lined up underground alongside clay horses and weapons. A portion of those soldiers are now on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. We talk to experts about the exhibit.

Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco
Michael Nylan, professor of history at UC Berkeley who specializes in early China and the 20th century reception of the past
Dr. Lui Yang, Curator of Chinese Art and Head of the Department of Asian Art; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; author of "China's Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor's Legacy."
Albert Dien, professor emeritus of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Stanford University

  • Jon

    We’ve visited the terracotta warriors in situ and read about them.

    Will the Asian Art Museum’s exhibit provide us with enough new information to justify the visit?

    • thucy

      The Asian Art Museum is ALWAYS worth the visit.
      And from an environmentalist perspective, I applaud the asian art museum for bringing a small portion of the clay soldiers over here so Americans don’t have to waste fuel traveling to see them. Air travel equals higher rate of climate change

  • thucy

    holy bleep – the penalty for tardiness was execution??? I love it, no wonder there was a rebellion. It sounds like Mel Brooks’ “History of the World Part 1”

  • Simon

    The exhibit should give a good opportunity for visitors to
    dive into Chinese history. Qin Shi Huang ended seven-warring-state period, united China, created a common Chinese written system. But life was tough under his rule. He was absolutely a brutal dictator. He killed many scholars and burned countless Chinese literatures. It was a crime to keep books at home under his rule. Therefore, Qin dynasty only lasted 15 years in more than five thousand year Chinese history. All these atrocities reminded me one more dictator in recent Chinese history—Mao Ze Dong. Mao ended civil war. But he killed countless scholars though direct order or through red guards. Culture revolution largely destroyed Chinese culture. Therefore, we mainland Chinese has to learn Chinese traditional culture from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Millions of people died due to famine under Mao’s rule. There is an old Confucius teaching says that water can bears a boat and buries a boat. If Chinese communist party refused to reform, they would have faced the same fate as Qin dynasty. In this sense, Deng Xiao Ping saved the Communist Party’s dynasty. But history is a mirror for current Chinese rules.

  • Wordsmith

    Some facts for thought.
    1. Right now if you go to Chinese internet, you will see that Qin Dynasty is compared with the current regime and indeed there are many similarities.

    2. Zhang Yimo’s movie Hero in 2002 was a tribute to Qin Shihuang. He argued that in order to unite the 7 kingdoms into one peaceful state, some must die & sacrifice (or to be sacrificed), including the assassin named “no-name”. Zhang Yimo was widely, almost by all, criticized by both audience and intellectuals. This movie was considered a mouth piece for the current government and political and against democracy. Unfortunately the obvious political analogy of this movie was lost to Western viewers.
    Two years later, Zhang Yimo made House of Flying Daggers which has 100% opposite ideology, that is, organized politics oppresses and corrupts individuals, politics are dirty and revolutions destroy.

    I believe Zhang was sincere in both movies. I call this “cultural multi-identity disorder of Chinese”. Westerns must understand the two conflicting views among Chinese as a group if they want to further democracy, justice and peace: the aspiration to have a strong state (the “big me”), and the aspiration to justice (the “small me”). Most Chinese, and some Westerners too, still are in the dream of “big me”. (For example, Iraq war.)

    3.Terrecotta Warriers is an amazing experiment of a society and am empire. What is the result? The empire collapsed after only 2 emperors.

    4. More cultural exchange will enlighten the blinded, remove the

    prejudged, open up the arrogant. The more, the better. Thus a big thank you for the guests on your show today.

    • thucy

      I agree -I think Zhang Yimou’s earlier films like “To Live” and “Raise the Red Lantern” are so much more pure in vision and ethics than “Hero.” They are the best films of the 1990’s. And when she was at the height of her powers, Zhang’s muse Gong Li was more able than all U.S. actresses put together.

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