As Anna and I were driving, I saw a green sign by the road that said, "Forbidden Gardens" with an arrow leading the way. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what qualified as a "forbidden garden" in Texas. But a quick internet search revealed it was actually the Forbidden Gardens Chinese History and Cultural Museum, built to promote knowledge of ancient Chinese history and culture.
Katy may seem like a strange place to find a Chinese History and Cultural Museum, but it is actually quite fitting. The museum was privately founded by Mr. Ira Poon, a businessman from Hong Kong. He chose Katy because it is close to Houston (Fun Fact: Houston has the third largest Asian population living in the United States). Also, the rice fields of Katy reminded Poon of China.
After watching a 20-minute educational film about the history of the ancient Chinese empires and the Forbidden City, we wandered around to see the different exhibits. We could examine weaponry, carriages, and art from the empires but the two most impressive exhibits were the Terra Cotta Army of the First Emperor and a miniaturized version of the Forbidden City.
Before his death in 210 BC, Emperor Qin commissioned an elaborate burial site including a 8,000 terra cotta soldiers to protect him in the afterlife. The statues are life-sized, some standing almost 6 feet tall, and no two are alike. The Forbidden Gardens in Katy features 4,000 soldiers that are a third the size of the originals.
It's an amazing site to take in all at once. Thousands of clay soldiers stretched out, standing at attention while a plaster Emporer Qin commands them for a distance. The neat and careful rows are impressive in their symmetry and careful detail.
There are largely soldiers on display so you can examine the intricacies that would be in the original. Each statue is unique. The way they braid their hair or wear their armor is different in each soldier. More amazing to me was the difference in facial features and expressions. It's not that they are different soldiers - they are different people!
There has been some damage to the soldiers as the result of bad weather and a hurricane but it doesn't take away from the exhibit.
Check out The Yellow Brick Road Trip on Monday to find out more about the Forbidden Gardens and the miniaturized Forbidden City exhibit!