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‘Breathtaking’ Terracotta Warriors opens at Te Papa

News: 19 December 2018

The ancient terracotta warriors and a group of delegates from China’s ancient cultural capital Xi’an were welcomed by local iwi Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Te Ātiawa, and Te Papa’s iwi in residence Rongowhakaata. 

Ngāti Toa Rangatira perform a wero in the threshold gallery of the Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality exhibition, 2018. Image sourced from Te Papa

The powerful pōwhiri was held at dawn on Thursday 13 December at Te Papa in front of Rongowhakaata’s Te Hau ki Tūranga whare whakairo, the world’s oldest surviving carved meeting house.

“This was a very momentous occasion, a wonderful embrace of cultures and the culmination of a strong relationship between the National Museum (Te Papa Tongarewa) and the cultural institutions from the province of Shaanxi,” says Arapata Hakiwai, Te Papa’s Kaihautū (Māori Co-leader).

Te Papa’s board chairman Evan Williams says:  “It is a huge honour to be entrusted with these greatest treasures of China.  We embrace the responsibility of being their kaitaki and this opportunity to share China’s ancient history with New Zealanders.”

The Honourable Minister David Parker, who spoke at the exhibition launch event later on Thursday evening said the exhibition “offers us a rare opportunity to have an immersive encounter with an ancient and remarkable civilisation.”

After travelling more than 10,000 kilometres from Xi’an, China, the 2,300-year-old terracotta warriors are finally ready for their New Zealand audience.

Local school kids from Mt Cook School got a free sneak peek at the exhibition and were very impressed with the ancient warriors.

"All of them are so different, I really like how there's so much detail put into it," said Lily Reid.

"It makes me dive into what the times would have been like, when I look at the soldiers I can picture the people making it and the King's [Emperor's] ideas," said Amalie Hendy.

The unmissable exhibition features eight life-sized warriors and two horses from the buried army that guarded the tomb of China’s First Emperor. 

Also on show are over 160 exquisite treasures from imperial tombs in and around China’s ancient capital, Xi’an.

Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality opens on 15 December this year and runs through summer until 22 April 2019. Tickets available from

Published on 19th December 2018