The Imperator's Army
Terracotta Figures from China
Henie Onstad Archive
In the year 210 BC the first emperor of China, Quin Shihuang, was buried in a big grave in Lintong.
In 1974 a buried army of 7000 terracotta soldiers were found about half a mile east of the burial site. Placed there to guard the emperor.
Every single soldier has its own looks and personality. Not a single one is the same. History claims that more than 700 000 forced laborers worked for 38 years to complete the mausoleum, a gigantic complex measuring more than 50 square kilometers. Emperor Quin made China into one great empire through several conquests. The famous Chinese historian of ancient times, Sima Quin expressed it like this: "Like a silkworm devouring a mulberry leaf." Quin gave the country his name and ordered the construction of the Great Wall of China. Emperor Quin became notorious for his ruthless reign and he was obsessed with immortality so he started to plan his mausoleum at the age of 13.
The terracotta statues from Quin Shihuang’s grave paid Henie Onstad Kunstsenter a visit in the exhibition The Imperator's Army in the spring of 1985. The architecture of the exhibition was designed by the architect Sverre Fehn, who placed mirrors from floor to ceiling in the room of the exhibition. At Høvikodden the 7000 terracotta soldiers were represented by six standing soldiers, two archers, a groomer and two horses. The mirrors served partly as a reflection of their 7000 fellow workers and partly as a mirror of time. Sarpsborg Arbeiderblad wrote: "Silent witnesses of the great power of the emperor dug up from the earth."
To facilitate the exhibition, the Norwegian Parliament made a unanimous and unique decision to warrant 165 million kroner as collateral for the statues.
"A phenomenal success" stated the director at the time, Ole Henrik Moe to Aftenposten. In total 60 000 people experienced the exhibition during the eight weeks it was open.
Words: Martine Hoff Jensen