The Terracotta Army marches into Liverpool

China's clay soldiers attracted record crowds when they were exhibited in London. Now it's Merseyside's turn to marvel


Few exhibitions, even at one of the world's largest and most pre-eminent museums, cause such a furore that the overwhelming number of visitors prompts the closure of the institution's gates. But this is exactly what happened when China's Terracotta Warriors were exhibited at the British Museum in London in 2007-8. The exhibition remains one of its most popular draws to date.

Such scenes now look set to be repeated following the announcement that the Chinese treasures will be shown at Liverpool's World Museum in 2018. The landmark exhibition will mark the first time they have been displayed in a UK institution outside the capital.

The spectacular figures were discovered during the excavation of a tomb and burial grounds in Xi'an, north-west China in 1974 and offer a fascinating insight into the life of Qin Shihuangdi, the first emperor of the unified country, who ruled from 221BBC to 206BC. Archaeologists have unearthed more than 8,000 of these life-sized warriors from an area spanning an astonishing 22 square miles, each statue with individual clothing, hair and facial features that would once have been brightly painted.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

New discoveries indicate Qin wished to take the entire universe with him into the afterlife in symbolic form. The tradition was continued by his successors in the later Han Dynasty, who constructed a vast labyrinth of underground chambers and passageways and filled them with food and drink, as well as clay servants and animals – everything the emperors needed to enjoy their luxurious lifestyle beyond the grave.

The warriors will be displayed alongside other notable artefacts from China dating from 307BC to the second century AD, including a number that have never before been exhibited in the UK, offering an unprecedented insight into life in the country more than 2,000 years ago.

"The Terracotta Army represents one of the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century and I am delighted that a selection of the warriors will be coming to Liverpool," said Culture Secretary Karen Bradley. "I am sure the exhibition will be very warmly received by the people of Merseyside and beyond."

World Museum, William Brown Street, Liverpool L3 8EN; February to October 2018;

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.