Thirty years ago on a London street, an excited young teenager stood in a queue the likes of which he had never previously seen. The wait, however, was worth it, for the reward was the opportunity to see a small detachment of warriors from the Terracotta Army on their first visit to the city. For this particular young archaeologist, it was a glimpse of a foreign civilisation that made the local Roman ruins look desperately provincial by comparison. But it was not just I who was impressed; public interest in the event was extraordinary. With hindsight, it is easy to overlook the novelty that the warriors represented at that time. Fewer than 15 years had passed between the discovery of an army guarding the tomb of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang, large-scale excavations at the mausoleum complex and its inscription as a World Heritage Site, and the arrival of the exhibition in London at the start of an endless global tour as the new face (or faces) of Chinese cultural heritage.
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