Terracotta Army Facts

2 Destruction Accidents during Terracotta Warriors’ Exhibition Overseas

Since 1980s, overseas exhibitions of terracotta warriors have been successively held for people outside China to appreciate the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. However, although the packing, transport and overseas exhibitions were well planned and arranged, 2 destruction accidents still happened.

1. A terracotta warrior was viciously knocked down and damaged in Osaka, Japan in 1983.

In 1983, on the occasion of Osaka's 400th anniversary, some terracotta warriors were invited by Osaka 21st Century Association for exhibition there.

But before the end of the exhibition, a Japanese man got over the fence, smashed a glass case and pushed a 1.92-meter high, 100-kilogram weight terracotta warrior to the ground, causing serious damage. It was a great pity because it is a rare terracotta general and there are only about a dozen of them in the whole Terracotta Army. What is more regretful is that the statue was broken into pieces and it is impossible to restore it.

2. A thumb of the terracotta warrior was broken and stolen in Philadelphia, USA in 2007.

The overseas exhibition “Terracotta Army: The Eternal Guard of Emperor Qin Shi Huang” lasted in Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, USA from September 30, 2017 to March 5, 2018, attracting a large number of visitors. On the night of Dec. 21, 2017, a few months after the exhibition opened, the museum rented out some of its space for a party. Mike Rohana, 24, from Delaware, was a participant. At 9:15 p.m., Rohana sneaked into a closed but unlocked room and saw the terracotta warriors on display. He pulled out his cell phone and took a selfie with his arm over a terracotta warrior's shoulder, which nobody on earth had the opportunity to do so. He also studied the terracotta warriors with the flashlight of his cell phone and soon noticed a thumb of a terracotta warrior in the posture of “Like”. Rohana quietly broke off the thumb, put it in his pocket and left. For the next two weeks, no one noticed anything unusual about the terracotta warrior, so the thumbless terracotta figure continued to stand by the terracotta horse and greeted the curious visitors. It was not until January 8, 2018 that museum staff noticed what was wrong and reported it to the police.

Five days later, FBI agents working on the case used surveillance video to locate Rohana's home, where they found the broken thumb. “I don’t know what I thought. It just happened. It was a stupid mistake”. Rohana later confessed to the incident, saying he had made a mistake while drunk.

The terracotta warrior, whose thumb was broken by Rohana, is one of a few among thousands in China that have been fully restored, with a price tag of USD4.5 million. Fortunately, the thumb could be restored to the warrior, confirmed by the staff of Terracotta Army Museum.

After the 2 destruction accidents, the overseas exhibitions of Terracotta Warriors did not stop, only that China’s related cultural protection departments and government departments are more careful in choosing the museums for the exhibitions.

Further Reading:
Overseas Exhibitions of Terracotta Army 
A Little-known Case of Terracotta Warriors Theft in 1987

- Last updated on Feb. 03, 2023 by Brenda Lian -
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