First discovered in 1974 by farmers in China,  an underground army of nearly 8,000 life-size terracotta figures is known as one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. Discovered one mile east of the known burial site of the First Emperor of China (r. 221–210 BC), or Qin Shihuang, the terracotta army was created to accompany the emperor to the afterlife. This exhibition features ten majestic terracotta figures, including a cavalry horse, among 130 works that tell the story of China’s birth and one man’s lasting imprint on a nation.

The exhibition also features arms and armor, horse and chariot fittings, ritual bronze vessels, works in gold and silver, jade ornaments, precious jewelry, and ceramics. Excavated from the First Emperor’s mausoleum complex, as well as aristocratic and nomadic tombs, the objects date from the Eastern Zhou dynasty (770–256 BC) through the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC) and represent the complex history, myths, and burial customs of ancient China. They also explore the First Emperor’s profound influence on Chinese history.

Armor, Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), limestone. Excavated from Pit K9801, Qin Shihaung’s Mausoleum, 1999. (© Emperor Qin Shihaung’s Mausoleum Site Museum)
Armored General, Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), earthenware. Excavated from Pit 1, Qin Shihaung’s Mausoleum, 1977. (© Emperor Qin Shihaung’s Mausoleum Site Museum)
Ritual Bell, Spring and Autumn Period, Duke Wu of Qin (697–678 BC), bronze. Excavated at Taigongmiaocun, Chencang, Baoji, 1978. (© Baoji Bronze Ware Museum)
Tiger, Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC), gold. Excavated from Fengxiangxian, Baoji, 1979. (© Xi’an Museum)


Gathered from fourteen museums and archaeological institutes across Shaanxi Province, China, the works provide insights into Qin history, the creation of a unified China, the First Emperor’s rise to power, and his quest for immortality. More than 40 objects in the exhibition have never before been on view in the United States.  Terracotta Army is the first exhibition the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has presented in its 80-year history that is devoted to the art and archaeology of ancient China.

Organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Cincinnati Art Museum, in partnership with Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau, Shaanxi History Museum (Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center), and Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum of the People’s Republic of China. The exhibition is curated by Li Jian, VMFA E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Curator of East Asian Art, and Hou-mei Sung, Cincinnati Art Museum Curator of Asian Art.

Explore Emperor Qin Shihuang’s Mausoleum Site




Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China is presented by:


The Julia Louise Reynolds Fund

The Anne Carter and Walter R. Robins, Jr. Foundation

Virginia H. Spratley Charitable Fund II

Dr. Donald S. and Beejay Brown Endowment

The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia

Mrs. Frances Massey Dulaney

Jeanann Gray Dunlap Foundation

Dr. and Mrs. Steven E. Epstein

Frank Qiu and Ting Xu of Evergreen Enterprises

Norfolk Southern Corporation

Richard S. Reynolds Foundation


Mr. and Mrs. Fred T. Tattersall

The Charles G. Thalhimer Fund

Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation

YHB | CPAs & Consultants

Ongoing support for VMFA’s exhibition program is provided by the following endowments: the Dr. Donald S. and Beejay Brown Endowment, the Council Exhibition Fund, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Exhibition Endowment, the Fabergé Ball Endowment, and the Julia Louise Reynolds Fund.

Free for VMFA members, children 6 and under, and active-duty military personnel and their immediate families.

$20 for adults

$16 for seniors 65+

$10 for college students

$10 for youth (7–17) and students with school ID

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 804.340.1405.

Accessible parking is available on the first level of our parking deck, free of charge.

Contact Visitor Services at

Member Mondays

Enjoy a series of 4 special evenings that provide VMFA members with the exclusive opportunity to view the magnificent Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China exhibition on a night when VMFA is closed to the general public.

  • Mon, Dec 4
  • Mon, Jan 1
  • Mon, Feb 5
  • Mon, Mar 5

Members are encouraged to bring up to two guests (per membership) to enjoy this special evening and receive complimentary tickets to the Terracotta Army exhibition.

Scheduled from 6–9:00 pm, members will enjoy free access to the exhibition, delicious food and drinks in Best Café and member discounts in the VMFA museum shop.

Advance ticket sales are encouraged.

Reserve your tickets now before they sell out!