Three powerful dynasties, all within your grasp at HMNS: Warriors, Tombs and Temples
Three powerful dynasties, all within your grasp at HMNS: Warriors, Tombs and Temples

In 2009, the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the BowersMuseumin Santa Ana, California, along with other prestigious museums around the world, hosted the highly-acclaimed exhibition, Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor . The special exhibition, declared one of the top 10 museum exhibitions by Time Magazine, set attendance records during its stint in theU.S. Over 1 million viewed the extraordinary archaeological find, deemed the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World.

The warrior spirit lives on. On the heels of their last joint venture, HMNS and The Bowers Museum have marshaled a new army for display, Warriors, Tombs, and Temples: China's Enduring Legacy, which is currently on display at theBowersMuseum through March 4. The exhibit will make its final stop at HMNS, March 30 through September 3, 2012.

"The material in the exhibition is dramatic enough to appeal to anyone of any age group or level of familiarity with Chinese culture. The stories the pieces tell are so vivid that the viewer will leave the show with an increased awareness ofChina's great historical traditions and its importance in the world today," says Suzanne Cahill, Guest Curator of theBowersMuseum.

Making its debut in the United States is a loan of 200 incredibly preserved ancient works of art featuring newly-discovered artifacts unearthed from imperial, royal, and elite tombs, as well as from beneath Buddhist monasteries in and around the capital cities of three great dynasties, all located near the modern city of Xi'an in Shaanxi Province.

These are Xianyang, the capital city during the Qin dynasty (221 - 206 BCE), and Chang'an, the capital city during the Western or Former Han (206 BCE - 8 CE) and the Tang (618 - 907 CE) dynasties.

The exhibition features four of the famous life-size Terra Cotta Warriors, protectors ofChina's First Emperor Qin Shihuang, whose mausoleum complex is considered the eighth wonder of the world. Thanks to new conservation techniques, the paint on the warriors' garments and armor is now clearly visible and there are unexpected touches-premiering in this exhibition is the strangest of all-a Terra Cotta Warrior-- whose face is painted green. 

Smaller in scale but equally impressive, are the terra cotta warriors from the imperial tomb complex of a famous Han rebel-turned-emperor Gaozu. Like the Qin army of warriors, they have individualized features and are completely outfitted for battle-only their expressions are peaceful-perhaps, because they are presented in combination with concubines, animals and other necessities' required for a prosperous and comfortable afterlife.

Warriors, Tombs and Temples: China's Enduring Legacy dazzles with the riches from the Tang Dynasty, the zenith of trade in exotic goods and dispersal of innovative ideas along theSilk Road. The precious objects include gold dragons, fine ornaments, an exquisite tomb demon and other luxuries. A rare and important painting of a polo game between royals illustrates the adoption of Western influences by the East. Sacred objects including the reliquary that held the historic Buddha's finger bone from theFamenTemple are displayed for the first time outside ofChina, illustrating the widespread acceptance of Buddhist beliefs among commoners and elites alike.

When ancient emperors die, see what lives on. Aside from theirstriking artistic beauty, the objects on display also inform visitors about aspects of daily life and values in the capital cities of ancientChina: how people made a living, worshipped, traded, and buried their dead. Discover the daily and ritual lives of the elites, including the royal families, of each era. Along with what elites wore, rode on, ate from, and took to their tombs, the extraordinary works of art reveal tensions, controversies, and plots at court. Almost all of the material comes from imperial and royal tombs.

Warriors, Tombs and Temples: China's Enduring Legacy is organized by the Bowers Museum and the Houston Museum of Natural Science in association with the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, the Famen Temple Museum, the Han Yangling Mausoleum Museum, the Lin Yu County Museum, the Museum of the Terracotta Warrior and Horses of Qin Shi Huang, the Shaanxi Archaeology Institute, the Shaanxi History Museum, the Xi'an Museum, the Xianyang Museum, and the Xixiang County Museum.

Warriors, Tombs, and Temples: China's Enduring Legacy runs from March 30 through September 3. Tickets may be purchased online, which is recommended due to the popularity of this exhibit. For more information, visit www.hmns.org or call (713) 639-4629.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science-one of the nation's most heavily attended museums-is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, including the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory, and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Houston Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.

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