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Terracotta Warriors exhibition doubles visitor target at Te Papa

Wed 24 Apr 2019

Te Papa’s exhibition Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality has attracted twice as many visitors as originally planned, with 198,021 people having seen the exhibition since it opened on 15 December.

Before it opened, the museum had estimated 97,000 people would see the exhibition.

The exhibition closed on Easter Mon 22 Apr, with its final few days being among its busiest.

Te Papa spokesperson Kate Camp said the exhibition’s last tickets had sold out on Easter Saturday.

“Tickets were just flying out the door as people scrambled to secure their spot,” says Ms Camp.

“We have been blown away by the interest in the exhibition, and impressed by the level of detail that visitors have been delving into.

“They’ve been really taking their time, reading the labels, listening to the audio guide, and buying the catalogue to read up at home.”

Ms Camp said that visitor feedback had centred on the same themes.

“People have told us they appreciate seeing the warriors alongside all the other treasures, and getting an insight into Chinese culture and history.

“The other common theme is the privilege of being so close to history, close enough to pore over every intricate detail,” Ms Camp says.

Dr Rebecca Rice, curator of Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality, says the exhibition has achieved everything the museum hoped for.

“We wanted to offer an immersive and intimate experience – a chance to see the terracotta warriors up close in breathtaking detail,” says Dr Rice.

“It was important to us that the exhibition give an insight into Chinese history and culture, and we can see from our audience response that it has done just that.”

Dr Rice said that working closely with colleagues from China had been a personal highlight.

“We are honoured to be able to host these treasures in Aotearoa, and we are so grateful for the support and expertise of our Chinese colleagues,” Dr Rice says.

The exhibition objects travelled more than 10,000 kilometres to Te Papa from Xi’ian. They will now take a shorter journey to Melbourne, where they will be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria from 24 May to 13 Oct, before returning home.

The $2.6 million exhibition had been made possible by support from the government’s Major Events Development Fund, and Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, Shaanxi History Museum (Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center), and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum.

By the numbers

  • 198,021 visitors to the exhibition (original target 97,000 – 100,000)
  • 2,300 years: age of the terracotta warriors
  • 100–300kg: weight range of the warriors
  • 180cm: average height of the warriors
  • 8 warriors were on display
  • 160 other exquisite ancient Chinese artefacts crafted from gold, jade, and bronze
  • 3,060 years: age of the oldest item on display
  • $2.6 million: cost of the exhibition
  • $33 million: estimated economic benefit to Wellington

Background

The life-sized, lifelike soldiers each weigh 100–300 kilograms. They vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with rank. Originally, the figures were painted with bright pigments, but much of the colour has faded over time.

The remarkable terracotta figures were presented alongside extravagant treasures from imperial tombs in and around China’s ancient capital, Xi’an. The exhibition included more than 160 exquisite works of ancient Chinese art crafted from gold, jade, and bronze, which date from the Western Zhou through to the Han dynasty (1046 BCE – 220 CE).

Exhibition partners

Te Papa developed the $2.6 million exhibition with support of the Major Events Development Fund, administered by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment. The exhibition has been indemnified by the New Zealand Government. Also vital was the support of Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, Shaanxi History Museum (Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center), Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Wellington City Council, and Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency.

Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality was made possible by the generous support of:

  • Airline partner: China Southern Airlines
  • Destination partner: Wellington City Council
  • Hotel partner: Accor Hotels
  • Waste Management
  • PwC
  • Wellington Airport
  • Fuji Xerox
  • Luna Wines
  • NZME
  • Red Wolf