In 1974, a farmer accidentally found a large array of life-sized terra cotta soldiers that had been buried underground for over 2,000 years. This awe-inspiring troop belonged to China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, who conquered rivaling states and unified China in 221 BCE. The tremendous scale, refined craftsmanship, and naturalistic detail of these sculptural works reveal the complexity and accomplishments of the material culture of the Qin Empire. Since then, new findings from this and other burials have significantly enriched our understanding of the first empire in China.
Fan J. Zhang is the Senior Associate Curator of Chinese Art at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Trained as an archaeologist in China, he received his Ph.D. in the History of Art and Architecture from Brown University. Among his broad academic interests are the art and archaeology of China’s Conquest Dynasties, the material culture of ritual and theater in northern China, the Silk Road trade and cultural exchange, and the early history of Asian art collecting in North America. He has published many academic articles and curated numerous groundbreaking exhibitions.