China's Terra-Cotta Army Marches on American Soil

In 1974, farmers digging a well in central China's Shaanxi Province uncovered a headless terra-cotta soldier. Archaeologists have since unearthed 8,000 life-size warriors (each with distinct expressions), 600 horses, and 100 war chariots from the site, which covers seven square miles. The figures are part of the tomb of Emperor Qin (259-210 BC), who was the first to rule a unified China.

Eleven of the soldiers are now on display at the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Museum of Art through Oct. 18. "Eternal China" features 115 treasures excavated from the emperor's tomb in Xian, the ancient Chinese capital. Objects of gold, silver, bronze, jade, and clay are included.

Among the most important artifacts is a six-foot-long stone tiger that weighs three tons. Carved between 206 BC and AD 6, it is believed to be one of the earliest examples of stone sculpture.

Ceramics with an early lead glaze are also featured. The technique of using a high percentage of oxidized lead - which turned the glaze green or brown - led to the creation of porcelain 500 years later.

Much excavation remains to be done at the site, which was a stop on President Clinton's China tour earlier this year. Archaeologists have yet to finish excavating the burial pits in which the terra-cotta army was found, and work has yet to begin on the emperor's burial mound.

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