October 28, 2012–January 27, 2013
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Target Galleries

China's Terracotta Warriors
Armored kneeling Archer (detail)
Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE)
Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum

About the Exhibition

“An action-adventure narrative, part deep history, part archaeological romance…The terra-cotta warriors are awesome.”
New York Times

Get a glimpse into the life and legacy of China’s First Emperor. And see over 120 rare objects—including 8 terracotta tomb warriors and 2 horses—and other amazing artifacts from this extraordinary archaeological excavation.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience, this exhibition takes visitors on a journey from the birth and rise of the Qin Empire to the life and rule of the First Emperor, his quest for immortality, and his death, burial, and legacy. This is a rare opportunity to view treasures from one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of our time, drawn from more than 13 institutions in China, including the Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses, the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeological Institute, and the Shaanxi History Museum. A presentation of objects, including bronze ritual and jade artifacts, gold and silver ornaments, and palatial architectural components, illustrates the emergence of the Qin State more than 2,000 years ago.

The MIA was among the first museums outside China to feature some of these figures in a small display held in 1985. A quarter-century later, Chinese archaeologists are still toiling away around the burial mound of one of the most remarkable figures in the history of China, the First Emperor. Don't miss your chance to learn more about this extraordinarily influential man.

About Qin Shihuang, the First Emperor

Born in a time of turmoil in China’s history, known as the Warring States period (475-221 BCE), Qin Shihuang, or First Emperor, founded the short-lived Qin dynasty (221-207 BCE). He forged the seven warring states into one nation, and his legacy of a centralized bureaucratic state would be carried on to successive dynasties over the next two millennia.

Driven by an eagerness for immortality, the First Emperor began to plan his burial from the moment he ascended to the throne at age 13. The complex plan and symbolic content of the mausoleum, as gradually revealed by the ongoing archaeological excavations, are far beyond anyone's imagination.

The terracotta army was discovered in 1974; later, Chinese archaeologists excavated three pits containing more than 7,000 terracotta warriors with horses and chariots, all designed to protect the First Emperor in the afterlife. His tomb was an elaborate subterranean palace, a parallel world that would enable his rule after his death.

This exhibition was organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in partnership with the Asian Art Museum and the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre, People’s Republic of China.

China's Terracotta Warriors
Light infantryman (detail)
Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE)
Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum
China's Terracotta Warriors
Chariot Horse
Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE)
Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum

Exhibition Tickets

Reserve tickets online, at the door, or by calling (612) 870-3000, or toll-free (888) 642-2787. Advance registration is strongly encouraged. Tickets may sell out at peak times and on weekends.

Free to museum members, children 5 and under, and children's groups.

The exhibition is free to the public on Target Family Days: Sunday, November 11; Sunday, December 9; and Sunday, January 13, 2013.

General museum admission is always free.

Reserve tickets online

  • Adults$18 weekdays, $20 weekends
  • Seniors 62 and up$16 weekdays, $18 weekends
  • College students with ID$9 weekdays, $10 weekends
  • Students 13-17$16 weekdays, $18 weekends
  • Children 6-12$14 weekdays, $16 weekends

Become a member and receivefree passes for unlimited visits!

Exhibition Catalogue

Pre-order yours today. Catalogue will be available after November 1.

Like most of China’s amazing archaeological discoveries, the terracotta army was found by accident. Since 1974, remarkable discoveries at the First Emperor's burial site have been ongoing, revealing the wealth of China’s ancient past. With contributions from leading scholars, China’s Terracotta Warriors presents a panoramic view of Qin artistic, military, and administrative achievements under the powerful ruler who proclaimed himself First Emperor of China. In addition to findings from his tomb complex, it examines the period of Chinese history preceding the First Emperor's reign (246-210 BCE) and his establishment of the Qin empire and dynasty in 221 BCE.

The Qin state had been in existence for over half a millennium before the First Emperor came to the throne, and its rulers had played their parts in the evolution of a small state into a superpower. Only in recent years has that history been revealed through a series of remarkable and often accidental discoveries of tombs and burials of early Qin royals and aristocracy. In the absence of substantive and reliable written sources, it is this archaeological evidence which provides clues to Qin's rise from state to empire.

Pre-order Your Catalogue
China's Terracotta Warriors

China’s Terracotta Warriors is published to accompany exhibitions at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

304 pages soft cover catalog, fully illustrated.

Liu Yang is curator of Chinese art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The other contributors are Edmund Capon, Albert E. Dien, Jeffery Riegel, Eugene Wang, and Yuan Zhongyi.

Audio Tours

Get more from your visit by renting the 16-stop audio guide for "Terracotta Warriors": $6; $5 MIA members.

The audio guide is also available for FREE on your own mobile device at m.artsmia.org.