Image: Terracotta army
Sergey Ponomarev  /  AP
The largest ever loan of artifacts from China's famed terracotta army started on its way to London on Thursday. Artifacts and 20 of the statues will be displayed at the British Museum from Sept. 13 to April 6, 2008.
updated 8/9/2007 2:52:35 PM ET 2007-08-09T18:52:35

The largest ever loan of artifacts from China’s famed Terracotta Army is on its way to London.

The 120 items include 20 life-sized clay statues of warriors, acrobats and musicians, along with weapons and decorative items in jade and copper, the Xinhua News Agency said Thursday.

They departed their home museum in the western city of Xi’an by truck for Beijing where they were to fly to London to be displayed at the British Museum from Sept. 13 to April 6, 2008, Xinhua said.

“It’s going to be the largest exhibition of the Terracotta Army ever to be seen outside China,” Zhao Kun, a specialist at the Xi’an museum, was quoted as saying.

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The warriors were buried about 2,200 years ago to guard the tomb of Qin Shihuang, who created China’s first unitary state by conquering rival kingdoms.

Qin established a single written language, unified measurements, the currency and legal system, and built an extensive system of roads, canals and levies.

After his death in 210 B.C., he was buried in the city-size mausoleum outside Xi’an, which was discovered in 1974 by peasants excavating a well and has since become one of China’s top tourism destinations. Slideshow: Beijing booms

More than 1,000 life-size figures were found, representing the Emperor’s army, including officers, horses, archers and chariots. Thousands more could still be unearthed. No two soldiers in the Terracotta Army are alike. Each of the sand-colored statues has a different facial expression and hair style, and craftsmen are believed to have modeled them after a real army.

The loan follows a traveling exhibition from the British Museum to China last year that included the Rosetta Stone and paintings from European Renaissance masters.

Several of the life-size statues are to go on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in November 2008. The objects will also be exhibited at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, Calif., and the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Texas.

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