PacSci Perspectives


The Interactive Terracotta Warriors

by | Feb 27, 2017


The terracotta warriors are a wonder — architecturally, scientifically and artistically. Those who have been to Xian say they are breathtaking just to see from a distance. But what if you could see these ancient wonders as they once were, in their original glory? “This exhibit will give you the opportunity to see the terracotta warriors as they were 2,000 years ago, with some hands-on experience” according to exhibit designers of Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor, a brand new exhibition premiering at Pacific Science Center on April 8. Through an interactive simulation, visitors will get a glimpse of the warriors in their prime. “We wanted an exhibit that defied the standard ‘look at the artifacts from a distance’ approach. We want guests to get to know the terracotta warriors — really feel their individuality and grandeur as a complete army.”

Part of the process of reproduction is to figure out what the individual warriors looked like when they were first built. A high-ranking general may have had pheasant feathers attached to their armor, which have since decayed. The warriors were originally painted different colors, based on rank, most of which have faded away. They were then coated in resin — and as the resin flakes away, so do the colors. Scientists had to figure out the chemical makeup of the dyes the Chinese used in the third century BCE by conducting chemical analyses of the residue. Iron oxide was used to create red and yellow, for example, and copper carbonate was a component in shades of blue and green. Simulations in this exhibit will closely imitate the colors scientists theorize they used —  and give guests a broader understanding of the operations of this force.

The distinct facial features, clothing and weapons of the warriors distinguish each from the other, like a real army. But part of the impressiveness of this army is its size. The sheer number of statues is hard to appreciate when you only see one artifact at a time, especially considering that of the 8,000 figures archeologists and scientists know exist, only 2,000 have been excavated. About 2.4 million pounds of clay were used to create the warriors, which filled 600 pits (a total of 22 square miles — well over 10,000 football fields). While guests will study individual warriors, it’s hard to comprehend their visual affect en mass. The solution? A digital reproduction is the warriors as they were originally set up in Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s tomb. “After you see the detail of a warrior (from facial expressions to clothing), you are even more impressed with the group as a whole.”

This presentation of the terracotta warriors in this exhibition is not only innovative — it’s vastly more informative. Such individualism in a vast group is rare — and this exhibit gives you the opportunity to appreciate both. Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor makes its World Premiere at Pacific Science Center April 8 — don’t miss out on the chance to be fully immersed in history.