Last weekend we visited family and friends in Switzerland. I still read the Swiss newspapers and had therefore discovered that an exhibition about the Chinese emperor Qin and the terracotta statues found at his burial place had just started in Bern, where we would be spending most of the time. The exhibit is being held at the Bernisches Historisches Museum, which turned out to be a convenient ten minute walk from our friend’s apartment.
The fabulous army of Qin Shi Huang (259-200 BC) came to light in 1974 near Xi’an, an ancient capital city of Central China. That year there was a terrible drought and a farmer was told to try and dig a well. He unearthed a terracotta head instead. The mausoleum is huge (about 690 meters long by 250 meters wide) and said to be the home of about 8’000 military statues. Chariots, horses and other figures such as acrobats and musicians were also found but the site has only been partially excavated due to the fragility of the treasures it contains. About 2’000 warriors have been freed so far but the emperor tomb, sealed off by a vermilion stonewall, has remained untouched up to now. This archaeological discovery has been recognised as a world heritage site by the UNESCO in 1987 and is often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
The exhibition is very well laid out on different levels and explanations are all in English, French and German. You can also opt for an audio guide (that offers Italian too) costing extra, or download the Qin exhibit app onto your smartphone, which includes the guide too.
Over 200 artefacts are on display and you will learn a lot about the formation of the Chinese Empire, Qin Shi Huang himself and of course the story of the terracotta warriors. For example I did not know that the statues had been beautifully painted. Unfortunately when brought out of their protective layers of soil the paint just crumbles away but there are a couple of reconstructions giving you an idea of what they looked like.
I have to say that I had been expecting to see more warriors than the few on display, but still it makes for a fascinating visit and the exhibit can really be recommended.
Website: Qin – The Eternal Emperor And His Terracotta Warriors
Entrance fee: 28 CHF (the ticket gives you access to the permanent exhibitions of the Bernisches Historisches Museum as well)
Dates: March 15th to November 17th 2013