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China's Ancient Terracotta Warriors Charm Australians

 For the past three months, Australians have come face to face with the guardian warriors of China's First Emperor, entombed for over 2000 years, and talked and love these terracotta warriors.

"It is gorgeous. The statue look so vivid that it seems these warriors are alive" said Mary Goldsmith, a school teacher in Sydney.

Her partner John Harris echoed Mary's view. "Through this exhibition I knew a bit more about Chinese ancient history which I am fond of," he said.

"The First Emperor: China's entombed warriors" exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which began in early December last year, has brought one of the world's greatest archaeological discoveries to Sydney.

In 1974, farmers in the central China province of Xi'an were digging a well when they unearthed the head, hands and body of a life-size terracotta warrior. They had come across the first soldier in what is now known to be an army numbering over 7000, created to protect the tomb of the First Emperor.

The First Emperor, Qin Shihuang (259206 BC), is remembered as an almost mythical figure of Chinese history, the founder of a united China. Within 10 years of his reign as king of the State of Qin, he had unified all seven of the Warring States to create the Qin dynasty, and reigned as First Emperor from 221 to 210 BC. He oversaw the standardisation of currency, weights, measures and script and extended the construction of the Great Wall.

The exhibition is curated by the gallery's director, Edmund Capon, a leading authority on Chinese art and one of the first westerners to see the initial find in 1974.

"The exhibition opens people's eyes to the reality of ancient China and the amazing artistic achievements of her people of two millennia or before," Capon told Xinhua in an interview.

"People see the real and tangible objects that were made so long ago, still exist and the wonder of their having been found within their own lifetimes," he said.

The Australian public's knowledge of China is on the whole pretty minimal, according to Capon. "The image of China is big; Great Wall, Chairman Mao, long history and lots of ancient art." The exhibition, he said, brings into a tangible focus on the real world of ancient China.

"An ancient China that is largely mythical in most people's eyes and only received in a kind of fantastic way; through distant imagery and marvellously operatic films."

The exhibition, which features 10 of the world-renowned warriors and horses, and significant recent finds from the First Emperor's mausoleum in Xi'an, has been very well received by the public and critics. "It looks like this exhibition will be one of the gallery's most popular exhibitions ever," Capon said.

The presentation of the works has also been highlighted by local media. John McDonald, art critic for the newspaper Sydney Morning Herald commented that the display of the exhibition created a new benchmark for exhibition design in this country.

The display recreates the actual pits of the entombed warriors, giving visitors a unique opportunity to examine up close the superb detail of these extraordinary life-size figures.

Capon, in his essay titled "The First Emperor: inheritance and legacy" in the exhibition catalogue, said what is so remarkable about the First Emperor's buried army is not only its immense scale but its authenticity and realism. "For here are images of the scale, presence and detail of real people that are totally without precedent."

"For all his military vigour, his administrative reforms, his unification of an empire, perhaps the First Emperor's greatest legacy was in precipitating a revolution in art," he added.

The exhibition closes on March 13 and the gallery has plans for future exhibitions of Chinese art. "Other shows with China are an absolute certainty and discussions are underway," and many Australians were looking much forward, Capon said.

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