The army of more than 8,000 life-size terracotta figures steadily being unearthed near the yet unopened tomb of China’s First Emperor is renowned as one of the world’s most spectacular discoveries. Less well known but even more striking, are more recent finds – civil officials, court acrobats, and musicians similarly modelled in terracotta, as well as chariots and water birds elegantly cast in bronze. How did the First Emperor acquire the enormous power to inspire such an extraordinary monumental tomb complex more than 2,000 years ago?
The First Emperor's Qin dynasty (221–206 BC) can be traced to a principality that dominated western China 500 years earlier. Archaeological discoveries over the last two decades have revealed new evidence of how this small state of Qin gave rise to China’s first unified empire in 221 BC. In examining those discoveries, this talk will explore pathways that led to the First Emperor’s immense and revolutionary power after death.
About the speaker
Dr Chen Shen is Vice President Art and Culture and Senior Curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, the largest museum of art, culture, and nature in Canada. Currently he is a visiting professor in the Culture Heritage and Museum Studies program school at the school of Art, Design and Media at NTU. He earned a PhD from the University of Toronto in anthropological archaeology, and conducts fieldwork research in China, the US, and Canada. At the Royal Ontario Museum, his curatorial responsibilities include the museum’s East Asian collection. He has curated many major exhibitions in collaboration with Chinese cultural institutions and museums. Dr Shen is also a cross-appointed professor at the University of Toronto, where he teaches on ancient China. Among his many publications are Anyang and Sanxingdui: Unveiling the Mysteries of Ancient Chinese Civilizations (2002), Current Research in Chinese Pleistocene Archaeology (co-edited, 2003), and the Human Evolution and Peopling of America section for Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology (2014). His most recent publications include Relevance and Applications of Heritage in Contemporary Society (co-edited, 2018) and Entering the World of Wonder: Thoughts on Contemporary Museums (forthcoming).
Image: The Terracotta Army Exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2010, curated by Dr. Chen Shen, Senior Curator of Chinese Art and Culture