More often than not armies spell death and destruction but for culture vultures, the terracotta army of Qin Shi Huang recalls the majesty and insight of that great Chinese emperor who lived more than 2,000 years ago.

The Terracotta Army Of Qin Shi Huang From China will be the title of an exhibition to be held at the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta from March till July 2007.

The display is being organised by Heritage Malta and the China Cultural Centre in Valletta.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to admire the intricate designs of 84 original artifacts that include 11 terracotta soldiers, two horses, bronze and pottery cooking utensils, personal ornaments, weapons, coins and terracotta animals.

The life-size warriors and horses formed part of an army for Emperor Qin to use in the afterlife.

According to archaeologists, the army, first unearthed in the 1920s near Xi'an, Shaanxi province could inlcude anything up to 7,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with horses and 110 cavalry horses. Excavations at the Qin Shi Huang necropolis have been going on for over 30 years and so far only 1,000 soliders and 21 chariots have seen the light of day.

Construction of the burial place began in 246 BC and is estimated to have taken 700,000 workers and craftsmen 38 years to complete. Qin Shi Huang was interred inside the mauseleum when he died in 210 BC.

Mario Cutajar, head of visitor services and HR at Heritage Malta believes the exhibition should attract crowds to Valletta not only because of the unique characteristics of the artefacts but also because of the reason for the army's being.

"The terracotta figures vary in height, uniform and hairstyle according to rank. Each figure has a face that was individually made and each was finished in a coloured lacquer," Mr Cutajar said.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang's life story itself has all the qualities of a historic icon.

Born Ying Zheng in 260 BC as a member of the Qin Dynasty during what is known as the Warring States Period which was marked by chaotic and fierce times, he ascended the throne in 247 when barely 13.

Historian Sima Qian notes that Qin Shi Huang was an intrepid leader who started to connect existing walls to lay out the first version of the Great Wall.

He constructed an extensive network of roads and canals throughout the empire, and standardised language and money.

The emperor abolished the fuedal system and replaced it with provinces run by civilian governors.

The terracotta army and the artefacts that go with it are proof of the incredible power the emperor wielded to be able to commission such a monumenal undertaking.

Preview

As a foretaste to this exhibition, Heritage Malta and the China Cultural Centre are organising two public lectures at the Museum of Archaeology, Republic Street, Valletta at 6 p.m.

In the first lecture on November 30, Song Xinchao from the Department of Museum Administration - State Administration of Cultural Heritage in China will talk about The Archaeological Discovery And Gains Of The Three Gorges.

The second lecture on December 1 by Li Xiuzhen, from Shaanxi Museum of Emperor Qin's Terra-Cotta Warriors, will deal with The Underground Corps Of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Entrance to the lectures will be free but since seating is limited to 100 places, members of the public must get tickets before each lecture from either Heritage Malta's head office in Merchants Street, Valletta or the China Cultural Centre in Melita Street corner with St Paul Street, Valletta.

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