We had seen them at the British Museum some years ago but were not likely to visit China so where better than Liverpool, once home to the largest Chinese population in the UK? While not as old as the incorporation of the city by King John it was the first.
This fact and undoubted trading links when Liverpool was our largest port had helped bring the exhibition north. It also coincided with the Great Northern Exhibition. There are also two contemporary Chinese art exhibitions running alongside the Warriors during the second half of their stay. The first half has been so successful it has already broken even and accounts for our problem in booking a convenient slot.
Mid-afternoon at least gave us plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast, shopping and other museum visits plus lunch at the Bluecoat art centre. We also took advantage of other rooms at the World Museum to view displays of insects, fish and ancient Egypt.
The Warriors exhibition begins with a brief, hi-tech but not very informative video that leads straight into the first life-size sculpture, a groom and horse. Behind them, as in many other areas, is a projected image of Chinese art.
Less than life-size but equally fascinating, are the horse-drawn carriages, after which there are display cabinets of artifacts for taking into the after life, a suit of armour and helmet and, appropriately, weapons. Chinese military might was great, but it also had trading links with European civilizations, as a display of stamped tokens and coins showed.
Working and firing clay on a large scale is notoriously difficult. There were many failures or wasters, as modern potters still produce. The kilns in use then are still at work, as Edmund de Waal showed in his book, “The White Road.” An interesting display shows the method of assembling the figures, which could not be constructed in one piece. Small maquettes are also on display.
Animals and utensils, bells and drums all accompanied the emperor on his journey after death, and the bells and drums are brought to life with a sound track in the exhibition.
Everything, though, prepares for the “parade” of full-size warriors, each in distinctive pose, which can only be appreciated in photographs if not seen at the exhibition. It is well worth the journey and of course Liverpool is well worth more than a single afternoon or even day.