Most people know about the Terracotta Warriors, located in Xi’an, China. The museum covers an area of 16,300 square meters and contains over 7000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, and even weapons have been unearthed from these pits. Created in 221 B.C. for Qin Dynasty Emperor Qin Shi Huang, this massive tomb has been named one of the 7 Wonders of China, a UNESCO heritage site, and can be considered an 8th Wonder of the World.
Inspired by these impressive sculptures, a New York based French artist, Prune Nourry, decided to recreate the Terracotta Warriors using life models of eight orphaned girls instead of soldiers. This project, the Terracotta Daughters, reflects on the idea of gender preference in China through 116 life size statues. Nourry emulates the style and technique of the original sculptures exactly in her project: using the same clay, adhering to traditional practices, and making sure that each of the girls’ faces are unique.
The world tour of the Terracotta Daughters army which will start by Paris in April 2014, Switzerland in June, and travel to New York City this October. The army will then be sent back to China in 2015 to be buried in a “contemporary archaeological site” until the year 2030. An hour long video will be a part of the traveling exhibition. To find out more information visit the website: http://www.prunenourry.com/en/projects/terracotta-daughters
As a Chinese adoptee and someone potentially displaced because of societal preferences for males, this project is one that impacts me deeply. When I look at these statues, I see the little girls who were forcibly aborted by the government. I see the daughters who, through infanticide, never had a chance. I see a clay shadow of the Chinese girl I could have been. As I sit at my computer half way around the world, I acknowledge that I am a statistic – that I, too, am one of China’s missing girls.
My identity as someone both Chinese and American is something that I hold onto strongly. Through my growing up years, I’ve learned to love my heritage while simultaneously questioning certain practices. I take pride in coming from the culture that gave the world paper, gun powder, printing ability, and the compass. I love the rich history and beautiful calligraphy, yet I loathe the (now changing) One Child Policy and the societal pressures that favor sons.
I think much of my maturation has been defined by being able to understand the dichotomies and complexities of my identity, cultures, and family formation. I have always felt a sadness and longing for my first family, but achieving empathy for their situation was another landmark on my journey to adulthood. I think this project, the Terracotta Daughters, is so powerful because it combines the stunning, political, and visual acknowledgement of the missing girls with the educational video on gender preferences that explains what factors have contributed to their disappearance. I hope to be able to see the Terracotta Daughters in person, if not this year, in fifteen years when the exhibit opens again.