Experience “The Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China” exhibition at the VMFA

You may have noticed some new faces around Richmond this winter! This can only mean one thing: The VMFA Warriors March has begun!

To spread the word about their latest exhibition, “The Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China,” the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is placing life-size replicas of the Terracotta Army statues around Richmond.

The exhibit continues through March 11.

Terracotta Statue Replica

The Terracotta Army, known as one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century, was first discovered in 1974 by farmers in Xi’an, China who were digging a well.

The army of nearly 8,000 life-size terracotta figures was created to accompany the First Emperor of China (r.221-210 BC), Qin Shihuang, into the afterlife.

The emperor’s Terracotta Army includes clay soldiers, wooden chariots, clay horses, and many weapons.

While the statues around RVA are just replicas, you can see real pieces from the Terracotta Army for yourself at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Terracotta soldier

The Terracotta Army exhibition at the VMFA features 10 majestic terracotta figures, including a cavalry horse, among 130 other pieces that tell the story if China’s birth and the First Emperor’s lasting imprint on the nation.

You can get tickets to see this spectacular exhibition of Chinese history here: Buy Tickets


Qin is credited with ending feudalism and unifying a multitude of warring kingdoms during his rule.

He standardized coins, weights, and measurements. He also interlinked the states with canals and roads.

One of the things he is most well-known for is building the first version of the Great Wall of China.

The exhibit showcases more than 100 original pieces that are more than 2200 years old and transports you to China and back to Qin’s time.

“Every single face is an actual portrait of a person from 2200 years ago. No two are alike,” said museum director Alex Nyerges.

When you enter the exhibition, you’ll see pieces that were discovered inside Qin Shihuang’s real tomb.

“We see musical instruments, bells, ceramic objects. We see works of gold and silver. We see jewelry. We see a look at the world in and around the time of Emperor Qin,” said Nyerges.

Ritual bell

They will introduce you to China’s first emperor and his quest for immortality.

“There are 120 works of art in this exhibition. It fills up some 15,000 square feet of exhibition space. That’s a third of an acre,” said Nyerges.


As large as the exhibition is, it doesn’t even begin to compare to Qin Shihuang’s massive mausoleum, which took hundreds of thousands of workers and many years to build.

His burial complex is believed to cover almost 38 square miles with his tomb in the center.

Writings from the court historian Siam Quin during the following Han dynasty reveal that Qin’s tomb, which has not yet been fully excavated, is “filled with models of palaces, pavilions, and offices as well as fine vessels, precious stones, and rarities.”

The writing of Siam Quin also suggests that the tomb contains replicas of the area’s rivers and streams made with mercury and flowing between mountains that are made from bronze.

There are also pearls and other precious stones that are meant to represent the sun, moon, and stars.

Areas around the tomb that have been excavated were found to contain dancers, musicians, and acrobats all posed in mid-performance.

The exhibition at the VMFA explores the First Emperor’s profound influence on Chinese history and represents the complex history, myths, and burial customs of ancient China.


Qin Shihuang was larger than life, and thousands of years after his death, his story and the pieces associated with it continue to captivate the world.

More than 40 of the pieces within this collection have never before been shown in the United States.

Learn more about the exhibition here: Exhibition Details

Keep at eye out around RVA for the fabulous life-size replicas of the Terracotta Army soldiers so you can grab a selfie with them!

Purchase tickets to see this incredible Terracotta Exhibition of Chinese history here: Buy Tickets