Terracotta army warriors returning to Edinburgh

The Beijing Olympics warriors. Picture: contributed
The Beijing Olympics warriors. Picture: contributed
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THE ancient warriors of ­China’s iconic terracotta army are on their way back to the Capital – recreated as “larger-than-life” lanterns to celebrate the New Year.

Art lovers in the city will be among the first in Europe to experience Chinese artist Xia Nan’s striking, 90-strong army of multi-coloured figures when they are put on show in Edinburgh University’s Old College Quadrangle later this month.

Originally commissioned for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2.5 metre-high lantern warriors were inspired by 8000 terracotta soldiers discovered in 1974 when the tomb of the first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, was unearthed in the country’s Xi’an province.

Co-ordinated by Edinburgh University in partnership with Event International, the showcase, which will take place to mark the Chinese New Year, carries echoes of a landmark exhibition of the terracotta army in the City Art Centre in 1985. Frank Wilson, exhibition producer for Event International, said: “This is a Scottish premier – the lanterns have been to a number of Chinese cities and they’ve always had a tremendous impact.

“I think that when the artist puts those lanterns in the quadrangle, it will really be something else. It’s such a beautiful space.”

Although recreating the effect of the original terracotta army, Mr Nan’s work stands out for its inclusion of “family” groups of female and child ­figures which display a range of emotions.

Mr Wilson said the outdoor exhibition will give Edinburgh residents the chance to experience a cutting-edge variation on one of the most traditional Chinese art forms.

“The artist will decide where each individual ­lantern is positioned in the quadrangle and he will also be on hand throughout the project to discuss his work with members of the public,” he said. “At a stroke, he has ­managed to turn the warriors into human ­figures, which is why he wanted to add women and children to the mix. The impact is totally different.”

Edinburgh University bosses have hailed the exhibition – which includes special events and materials aimed at city schools – as a landmark event.

Professor Natascha Gentz, director of the Confucius ­Institute for Scotland at the university, said: ‘We are delighted to be showcasing this incredible exhibition to coincide with Chinese New Year.

“People of all ages are sure to be wowed by the scale and beauty of the lanterns.”