Ancient Chinese figurines go on display

SOLDIERS, horsemen, servants, musicians and dancers - the guardians of the Kings Of Chu, who ruled ancient China 2,000 years ago, have set up court at Colchester Castle and will be in residence for the next four months.

Andrew Clarke

SOLDIERS, horsemen, servants, musicians and dancers - the guardians of the Kings Of Chu, who ruled ancient China 2,000 years ago, have set up court at Colchester Castle and will be in residence for the next four months.

The spectacular international exhibition, following the British Museum's Terracotta Warrior exhibit, will showcase 43 miniature terracotta figures from Xuzhou Museum in Jiangsu Province, China.

This is only the second time these enchanting figures have ever been out of China and this is their very first visit to the UK. The exhibition is the culmination of 20 years of friendship between Essex and Jiangsu Province - a friendship which has been built in the business sector and between Chinese and Essex schools.


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The figures on display in the Castle Museum from this weekend were excavated from a series of royal tombs by Professor Li of the Xuzhou Museum and he has accompanied his exquisitely-crafted figurines to oversee their installation in special display cabinets.

The terracotta miniatures are from the Chinese Han Dynasty and have been unearthed during the last 25 years. A number of figures in the exhibition only came to light in 2006.

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The figurines are from the same tradition as the slightly older terracotta warriors from Xian which have recently been on display at the British Museum. The statues of the officials still have most of their paint and give an idea of how the other figurines, which are now plain terracotta, would have looked. Professor Li said that he believes that there may be up to 100 royal tombs in the area and the majority remain to be fully investigated.

The royal tombs discovered at Xuzhou belonged to the Kings of Chu who were related to the Western Han emperors whose dynasty ruled China from 206BC to 24AD.

Miriam Stead, Essex County Council head of heritage and arts, said that Colchester Castle Museum was an obvious venue for this exhibition as there were many parallels and even some links between the Roman Empire and the Chinese empire of the Han Dynasty.

She said that when she was visiting China in 2006 on a research trip to plan for the Essex/Jiangsu Festival she spotted a reference to the Xuzhou terracotta army in the Rough Guide, went to see it and immediately started negotiations to bring it back to Essex on loan.

“These figures, dancers, musicians, officials all had paint on them, which the big Terracotta Warriors don't and I just fell in love with them.”

The Guardians of the King exhibition opens to the public on Saturday and runs until Sunday November 2.

Advance tickets are available from the East of England Tourist Board at www.visiteastofengland.com/guardians adult tickets are: £5.20, child tickets are £3.40 and concessions are £3.40.

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