Feature

Finest China

September 1996

More than 2,000 years ago, an army of 8,000 life-size terra-cotta soldiers and horses was assigned to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor. Centuries later, some of those very same soldiers are marching into Denver.

Like Egyptian pharaohs, the rulers of ancient China went to their graves accompanied by all the necessities and luxuries they would need in the next life. Clothing, weapons, musical instruments, food and wine in elaborate vessels — and, until the second century, even sacrificed wives, concubines, and servant girls — typically accompanied aristocrats into their underground palaces.

Beginning November 2, more than 250 artifacts recovered from those royal tombs will be on display in the Denver Museum of Natural History’s “Imperial Tombs of China” exhibition.

The exhibition features artifacts dating as far back as 475 B.C., many of which have only surfaced during the past few decades. Because these riches have remained hidden in their dark, cool caches for thousands of years, their remarkable condition greatly belies their age.

“Imperial Tombs of China” will travel to just five American cities, and is the largest exhibition of Chinese tomb findings ever shown in the United States.