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Terra cotta warriors set Bowers Museum attendance record

October 17, 2008 |  1:00 pm

Terra Cotta Warrior head fragments inspected by visitors to the Bowers Museum. The exhibition set an attendance record

Adios to the alert pair of archers, the stoical cavalryman and his horse, the impassive, sage-looking generals, the big-bellied, headless guy who's supposed to be some kind of entertainer or acrobat, and the rest of the gang. For a bunch of 2,200-year-olds pieced together from clay fragments, you looked marvelous.

The public evidently agreed: Officals at the Bowers Museum report today that "Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor" had 209,797 visitors during a five-month run that ended Thursday, making it by far the hottest ticket in the Santa Ana museum's history. Actually, some 250,000 people saw the Egyptian mummies exhibit that shipped out six weeks before the Chinese warriors stepped in -- but they'd been on view for 2 1/2 years. "Terra Cotta" more than doubled the 100,000 who saw the previous limited-run record-setter, "Secret World of the Forbidden City," during its seven-month stay in 2000.

One thing about the Emperor Qin and his clay army -- theirs, with apologies to James Brown, was evidently a man's man's man's world: The exhibit offered not a single image of a woman or a girl among the main attractions and the accompanying artifacts sent by Chinese authorities. Unless we failed to notice that the horse was a mare.

The warriors haven't quite left the building: Packing is scheduled to continue for 10 days, then they'll be shipped off to their next stop, Atlanta's High Museum of Art, where the show will debut Nov. 16.

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Visitors inspect terra cotta warrior head fragments at the Bowers Museum. The exhibition set an attendance record. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times