As part of our obsession with all things Warrior here at NG, we snagged a quick Q&A with Stanford Professor Emeritus Dr. Albert Dien, guest curator of the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit on now at the National Geographic Museum.
As guest curator of the exhibit, what do you hope people will take away from it? What do you hope visitors’ experiences of the exhibit will be?
I would hope that the visitors would come to appreciate the significant impact that the first emperor of the Qin dynasty had on his country in his own time and on China for the next 2,000 years. His regime, somewhat ameliorated by the following Han, provided the ideal of unity and the method of administering such an enormous area.
How does viewing the exhibit compare to visiting the site in Xi’an itself?
At NG, in-depth explanations of the historical context of his reign and what he accomplished are available. At Xi’an, one can see the physical evidence of his enormous accomplishment in the creation of this mausoleum and extrapolate from that to the rest of the country.
How are the warriors regarded in China?
The warriors are a part of the immense pride that the Chinese take in the accomplishments of their forebears. All relatively large cities now have beautiful museums with high-quality exhibitions and many with free admission in an effort by the government to enhance that sense of national pride. The warrior site ranks high on that agenda.
What can the warriors teach Americans about China and its history?
It may be that Americans can learn a little about the history and culture of an important part of the globe, one that has been relatively ignored in our educational system.
I learned from the exhibit that the emperor’s burial chamber has not been excavated and there are no plans in the works to do so. Why is that? Do you think it will be excavated in the future?
The decision has been made not to open the burial chamber until the archaeologists are certain about the conservation techniques that will be necessary to preserve what is found. The chamber will be excavated when that stage is reached, but no one knows how long in the future that will be. Meanwhile ongoing discoveries provide much new material.
To get your tickets and figure out logistics for seeing the warriors in D.C., go here or call at (202) 857-7700.
Photo: Kate Baylor/ National Geographic