Terra Cotta Warriors Descend on Indy

A crash course to the exhibit of the year, opening at The Children’s Museum this month.

1. The terra cotta warriors that you might have previously spied at The Children’s Museum aren’t the real thing. They’re replicas that have been promoting the coming exhibit, Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army. The museum worries locals will think they’ve already seen the warriors and won’t return to behold the eight authentic statues on display starting May 10.

2. The real deals come from the enormous tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, discovered by a farmer in Xian in the 1970s. While the excavation continues (it’s believed that at least 8,000 statues exist), China allows one American museum to exhibit them each year.

3. The Children’s Museum got on the exhibit’s wait list—dominated by fine-art institutions—several years ago. It’s the first family-oriented museum granted permission to host the artifacts.

4. The museum is also the first host to develop companion educational programs. Take Me There: China will replace the cultural-immersion gallery recently devoted to Egypt and remain open for three years. One exhibit will focus on four generations of a family. Others will explore Chinese herbs and medicines, the Zen-like philosophy of kung fu, and shadow-puppet theaters.

5. Don’t miss long-pot tea-pourer Li Min, visiting from China. “It’s so wild,” says museum CEO Jeffrey Patchen. “He pours teas out of a long spout while performing kung fu such that the tea goes five, 10, 15 feet into your cup.” Li is scheduled to amaze several times this month, as are local drummers.

6. Members of Indy’s Chinese community—population 10,000, according to the museum—jumped at the chance to volunteer in Take Me There, the purpose of which is to foster acceptance of a different culture. “So many of us have neighbors who are from China or who are first-generation Chinese-American. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the things they value,” says Charity Counts, the museum’s associate vice president of exhibits.

7. The museum sent about 20 staffers to China, some multiple times, to research components of Take Me There. Each person had a specific assignment. For instance, two people spent a week with the featured Chinese family, documenting their daily life and the look of their home. The backpack and clothes in the child’s bedroom in the exhibit actually belong to the young boy of the household.

8. Make sure to see this guy, a rare warrior with painting.

9. About that family, the Wangs: The museum hopes to fly them over to see the exhibit themselves.

10. School field trips will take place before noon on weekdays May 12 through June 14. Plan accordingly.

Exhibit details: Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army, May 10–Nov. 2, reserved ticket and museum admission $29.50 adults, $19.50 kids. Take Me There: China is included with regular museum entrance.


Photos courtesy The Children’s Museum

This article appeared in the May 2014 issue.