From Guarding an Emperor to Guarding the Berman Museum

No Discovery Tour of the Berman Museum would be complete without a visiting the Chinese Terra-Cotta Warrior.

Terra-cotta, Italian for “baked earth,” is any type of coarse, porous, fired clay that assumes a burnt red/orange color. These pieces are usually left unglazed and have been used since ancient times for bricks, roof tiles, pots, and sculptures. The Chinese “terra-cotta warriors” are a group of life-size models of soldiers guarding the tomb of Shi Huangdi (259-210 BC), the first emperor of China. They are located near Lishan in the Shaanxi Province of central China. After being discovered in 1974 by well-diggers, the site has become a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. Shi Huangdi’s mausoleum has yet to be opened, due to rumors of traps and curses. Surrounding the tomb is a 2000-year-old army of over 7000 warriors, 600 horses, and 100 chariots, with more found frequently.

There are ten general types of terra-cotta soldiers: three ranks of officers, four positions of soldiers, two kinds of chariot warriors, and cavalry. Because the details of each warrior are so specific, many believe real soldiers of the emperor’s army inspired the pieces. Each warrior has uniquely styled hair, features, and clothing. They would have been painted in bright colors, visible in some of the discovered warriors, but erased by time on the majority. The bodies, appendages, and heads of the soldiers would be created separately and connected later.

One of the most well-known soldier types is the “kneeling archer.” Unlike the standing soldiers, these kneeling archers were found mostly intact, due to their lower positions and the stability created by the placement of the right knee and feet, forming a triangle. Both hands would have held a large crossbow.

The Berman Museum’s terra-cotta warrior is a contemporary replica of the Kneeling Archer, made by Xi’an Terra-cotta Army Reproduction Ltd. Established in 1980, Xi’an Terra-cotta Army Reproduction Ltd is located near the UNESCO site and is the sole supplier of replicas to the Terra-cotta Warrior Museum. Forty technicians reproduce these sculptures with the same Qin Dynasty methods as the originals, including using only red clay from the area.

The Berman Museum’s warrior was donated in 2002 by Mr. David Boozer.

Photo with crossbow courtesy of

Photo with coloration courtesy of Mary Harrsch, taken at the Field Museum in 2016.

Forgotten Guard by David Cummings. Berman Museum Collections.

Kneeling Archer. 2002.3.1. Berman Museum Collections.