mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Terra cotta warriors

Went to the terra cotta warriors exhibit Tuesday, on a cold blowy day of light snow. The museum's rotunda is still open, but now it's around a corner (or rather, what looks like a slanted section of grey plasterboard wall) and the two galleries opening off it are First Nations and Canadiana, and in consequence it's almost entirely devoid of people. This is sad. Even sadder is the realization that the low dark empty entrance hall *is* the entrance hall, with the only natural light coming from one angled pane of the Excrescence's glass between two of the Excrescence's angled girders, looking north out to the wall of condos on Bloor St. The museum has no architectural focus any more. The Crystal itself takes you nowhere. Oh, there's a narrow angling vertiginous stairway for those without arthritic knees and vertigo, reminiscent of something seen in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but to get up or down otherwise you must use elevators. In its intermediate stage mid-80s, which I wasn't crazy about but dommage, the ROM had escalators but they took those out.

Wander into the old section and the now empty armour gallery and eventually you get to the East Asian exhibit which is now on the main floor-- just to underline the museum's changing priorities and the source of most of its money. There are a lot more figures and pottery than before, including a large size statue of Guan Yu, but I miss the recreations of Qing rooms and the Qing robes and snuff bottles and all. The warriors exhibit itself was well done and instructive, and the space didn't in fact impinge too badly on the senses-- but then it's a sub-basement. Says something that the largest exhibition space in the museum is below ground. The figures themselves are remarkable. Possibly too remarkable. There's a back slide show of what they looked like when first discovered, and how they look semi-pieced together; and here they are all seamless and whole, making you wonder if they aren't after all replicas.

More interesting to me was the terracotta warriors from the fifth Han Dynasty emperor's tomb. Much smaller, but originally dressed in silk with wooden arms. The silk and wood both rotted away, leaving the nude torsos. What fascinated me, in view of nojojojo's recent post, is that there were female soldiers in amongst the ranks. A placard said that the women are thought to be recruits from northern tribes, but I can't remember the exact wording and can't find anything online that echoes the idea.
Tags: china, place, rl_10

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