The Terracotta Warriors Came to Town


China’s famed terracotta warriors’ traveling exhibition made a visit to the United States this year. Luckily, they marched straight to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis which is only 100 miles from me. I didn’t get to see the sculptures while I was in China, so was thrilled to have the chance to see them so close to home. But at the same time, I fully expected to be disappointed. How in the world could seeing a dozen or so terracotta soldiers compare to seeing thousands standing in formation like we see in pictures?

My expectations weren’t very high, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

To begin with, the Children’s Museum had an entire exhibit devoted to Chinese culture. As soon as you walked in you saw red lanterns and a replica of the Great Wall that adults and children lined up to slide down.


From there, you entered an exhibition hall that began with a make-believe plane ride to China. You sat in what felt like real airline seats as clouds rolled past the windows and a flight attendant explained how many miles we were traveling from Indianapolis to Beijing. Then, as we approached our destination, the plane shook and we saw the jagged black mountains that I remember so well from my real flight to China. It was a warp speed trip to China without the jet lag!


We landed and entered exhibitions that were all about Chinese culture: tea, writing Chinese characters, Chinese opera, Chinese medicines, etc.. It was a fabulous representation of life in China.

My daughter drawing  Chinese characters.

My daughter drawing Chinese characters.

But onto the terracotta warriors, which is why we were there.

Was it as impressive as seeing the real deal in China? No. But it was still awe-inspiring and such an interesting, fun, interactive exhibit that I was totally impressed. I don’t usually like interactive activities. (I’m kind of a stick-in-the-mud-this-isn’t-what-a-museum-is-supposed-to-be-like curmudgeon.) But the activities in the terracotta exhibit were too fun to resist.

Sculpt a warrior face out of clay.

Sculpt a warrior face out of clay.

Mold your own terracotta warrior.

Mold your own terracotta warrior.

And then add it to this miniature terracotta warrior army.

And then add it to this miniature terracotta warrior army.

Put together pieces from a broken warrior to recreate it. (Harder than it seemed.)

Put together pieces from a broken warrior to recreate it. (Harder than it seemed.)

Or become a warrior yourself.

Or become a warrior yourself.


Finally, the real terracotta warriors. The actual soldiers from China:

DSCN3461 DSCN3463 DSCN3476 DSCN3481 DSCN3482

The exhibit was fantastic. Well worth the price of admission. It will still be on display at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis for a few more weeks and then will travel again. If it comes near you, I highly recommend a visit. I don’t know whether the interactive activities are the same everywhere this travels, but we spent hours immersing ourselves in all there was to do and see.

Of course, I still want to see the real warriors in China. But if I never do, I was satisfied with this.

What museum exhibits have impressed you?


23 responses to “The Terracotta Warriors Came to Town

  1. I love, love, love interactive exhibits 🙂 I really enjoyed the California Academy of Science in San Fran and the Oregon Science Museum in Portland. Thanks so much for sharing – Happy Day!

  2. The exhibit came to Montreal a couple of years ago but not as an interactive exhibit. I was amazed at how the warriors were made. The children’s exhibit looks like a lot of fun. I would love to see that.

  3. We saw the actual Terracotta Warriors in Xian and we were disappointed. They haven’t all been uncovered — in fact very few have. They are way down in a pit so you can’t get very close. The endless crowds nearly push you through the exhibits. But, it’s a must do in life.

  4. Fabulous. I’ve heard of the warriors being on tour but never managed to see them, yet. I definitely want to one day.

    This exhibition looks fabulous for young and old. I also want to go on that Great Wall slide, it looks like fun 😉

    • I hope it travels to Germany, too. It was so much fun. We learned how to write our names using Chinese characters. We played some musical instruments. We pretended we were shoping in a Chinese market. And they had a small apartment set up with typical things you might find in a child’s room and closet.

  5. What a great museum and exhibit! I love the little warrior army, how cute! I was imagining they might use mirrors or something in the exhibit to maximize the effect, tho… the actual warriors are very Impressive up close and personal, tho!
    I vote for the Sf academy of science, too! And if you bring the kids to egypt, definitely don’t miss the Pharonic Village in Giza, it’s a perfect oasis of ancient egypt (looks a lot like modern egypt, too, for that matter) without much culture shock and loads of museum exhibits, pkaces to eat, things to do while you are there. I really love and highly recommend the place for first timers to egypt, especially with kids. They have a great re-creation of tut’s tomb, exactly as Carter found it, among many, many other great exhibits.

    thanks for the great post! ♥♥♥;^)

    • Mirrors– that would have been interesting. They should have consulted you. 😉

      I will definitely keep the Egyptian village in mind. It sounds like a great introduction to everything else you might see there.

  6. I remember the warriors coming to Australia years ago…and also being pushed through the exhibition in a crush of people, filing past. Not a very enjoyable experience – this sounds much better! And I’d also love to see them in China too…one day!

  7. Looks awesome Julie. The cost of putting these temporary exhibitions together must be enormous and presumably needs big attendances.
    Like you I have a liking for the traditional, dusty museum where you just look and don’t make a noise. Once installed, they don’t cost much to keep going 🙂

    • This museum swayed me to the interactive fun side. I think it was because the activities seemed to have some purpose. For instance, knowing that many of the real soldiers were found in pieces and had to be reconstructed made it more meaningful when we tried to put pieces together, too. Plus, there were displays behind glass with placards. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be a museum, would it? 😉

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