China’s Emperor Qin Shi Huang is one of those legendary despotic yet pivitol figures that seem too large to have ever really existed. Yet Qin did exist, and was responsible for the unification of China, and for the building of much of the Great Wall. He also built another great monument, his own mausoleum.
On March 29th, 1974 peasant farmers digging wells in the eastern suburbs of Xi’an, Shaanxi began to find ancient arrows and other artifacts of note. Archeologists descended on the site and quickly found one of the greatest modern archeological finds ever discovered, the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin. Some 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses… which you can now see in Texas!
The Forbidden Gardens outdoor museum West of Houston, TX contains several dioramas of ancient Chinese history, including a recreation of Emperor Qin’s army of terra cotta tomb soldiers (some full-sized; most 1/3 scale.) Despite being smaller then the originals these 6000 clay soldiers occupying the area of a football field are still mind bogglingly impressive.
Created by the reclusive Chinese millionaire Ira P.H. Poon at a cost of $40 million, the park is relatively unknown, and Poon apparently does little to promote it, enjoying it for himself. In addition to the the Terracotta Warriors there is also a 1:20 scale reproduction of the Imperial Forbidden City complex which was built, at the insistence of Poon, with authentic materials and traditional construction techniques, and the entire display was carved, painted and assembled by hand. Also at the park are displays of architecture, weapons, and other artifacts; a narrated video; gift shop; and koi pond.
Update: The gardens closed permanently in February 2011, reportedly to make way for an expansion of the Grand Parkway. The terra cotta soldiers were sold to the public for $100 apiece at that time. Four months later, the emptied remains of the site were burned in a 315-acre grass fire.