In 1974, farmers in China digging a well accidentally unearthed one of the world’s greatest secrets: the Terracotta Warriors. Imagine their surprise to find life-sized clay “warriors” buried in the dirt. How did they get there? Where did they come from? The answers to these questions and others can be found at Pacific Science Center’s newest exhibit: Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor.

photo: Jeffrey Totey

The First Stop on the Worldwide Tour 
In a partnership with The Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, these warrior-sized clay sculptures (and many other artifacts) are currently on a worldwide tour making Seattle their first stop. Those of a certain age can remember when King Tut rolled into town for the first time. This too is once-in-a-lifetime experience. Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor opens its grand gates on April 8 and will stick around until September 4, 2017.

Who are These Warriors Anyway?
While the exhibit isn’t for everyone, it can be a fascinating event for curious older kids and their parents as it delves deep into the mystery of these forgotten relics. So, where did these “warriors”come from and why didn’t anyone know about them before 1974? At first, these farmers (and later archaeologists) thought that they had found a few artifacts but as they continued to dig, they began to find more and more life-sized replicas of Chinese soldiers in clay. In fact, over 6,000 life-sized soldiers, horses, chariots, bowmen and more have been uncovered and are estimated to be over 2,200 years old. But as it turns out, it is only part of the story.

This story is about a young and powerful prince who conquered his enemies, created the empire of China, created a uniform language and monetary system and more. Although all of the terracotta warriors look similar, every single one is different and unique. This exhibit not only shows how the prince’s men created their artwork, but also how and many other inventions and tools used during the time.

photo Jeffrey Totey

The Experience
After a brief introduction from a PSC greeter, the adventure begins in a small room with two large cut-out trees that suddenly come to life with a short film describing what you are about to see beyond the red doors that stand before you. Once the large red doors open, you are welcomed to come in and explore. Throughout the exhibit there are a few interactive stations that encourage kids to build their own warrior and put together miscellaneous pieces to build an artifact. A couple of stations show how creating molds and using rulers help to sped up the creation process.

There is much to look at, but most will not interest young ones. What is most impressive is entering a room where you are faced with the six-foot tall warriors staring you down. If you look closely, you’ll see that one is simulated to show what it might have looked like painted in bright colors and then it oxidizes right in front of your eyes. The final tomb room is also impressive with the glowing “stars” above and swirling “rivers” on the floor.

photo: Jeffrey Totey

The Terracotta Warriors exhibit coincides with the current IMAX movie, Mysteries of China, which explains further the mystery while also presenting an excellent larger-than-life 45-minute long film showcasing the best of modern China before going back in time.

Good to Know
1. If possible, view the IMAX film, Mysteries of China, first as it helps explain what it is you are about to see.

2. Be sure to look for the interactive tables and help your children understand the principles.

3. Consider purchasing a family membership to the PSC as the cost could be similar, but you get a whole year’s worth of fun for the price of one day. Ask about this option BEFORE you enter the PSC gates.

photo: Jeffrey Totey

The Pacific Science Center
200 2nd Ave. N.
Seattle, Wa 98109

Dates: Apr. 8-Sept. 4, 2017
Hours: Mon-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat-Sun-Holidays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Ticket Prices: $34.75/Adults; $32.75/Seniors (65 & up); $29.75/Youth (6-15); $26.75/Kids (3-5); $12/Members. Ticket price includes admission to all of Pacific Science Center exhibits.

Have you seen Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor? What was your favorite part? Tell us in the Comments below. 

— Jeffrey Totey