The general was discovered in the ground next to his chariot, clad in a double-layered gown with armor on the chest and feathers on his head. His left palm spread out in front of his waist, possibly to steady the handle of a sword that had since been broken off.
Whether the statue, unearthed in 1974 in the Chinese city of Xi'an, was modeled after a specific person or just a generic type is up to guessing. He was found along with more than 8,000 other life-size terra cotta figures when a farmer, drilling a well, inadvertently hit upon a treasure trove near the tomb of the first emperor of China.
Whatever his true identity, he's the new center of attention – in replica form, anyway – on the main floor of the Huntington Beach Central Library.
The city's Chamber of Commerce, which went on a series of trips to China over the last decade, received a replica of the statue as a gift early this year from Citslinc International, a Monterey Park-based agency that sponsors tourism between the United States and China. The chamber gifted it in turn to the library, and after several months of installation, the Terra Cotta Warrior, as he's known, went on display in July.
The library hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 22 to officially welcome the 6-foot statue as a permanent fixture outside the library's art gallery.
"I had a feeling of pride that the chamber was able to do something for the community, that historically, children can go there when they're studying China and see it," said Joyce Riddell, the former president of the chamber who facilitated the donation before stepping down in 2009. "Residents can go there. It can be something residents might want to see when they're in Huntington Beach. It's so impressive, you can't miss it, and it's so different.
"When you look at it, you know it's not a phony plastic thing. It's made out of clay."
The first emperor of China had the figures, mostly of military men, built to protect him in the afterlife and sealed along with him in his tomb. The site where the figures were unearthed has become a popular tourist attraction, along with modern-day factories that create detailed replicas.
Riddell, who toured the unearthing site, said the replica is virtually pitch-perfect. It stands about the same height as the real statue and is made out of the same terra cotta material. It also weighs about 400 pounds, and when it arrived by crate outside the library, it took four muscular security guards to wheel it inside, according to Stephanie Beverage, the city's director of library services.
Now, the statue occupies a serene spot — Beverage calls it a "contemplative area" — between the art gallery and a picture window, which displays a waterfall outside.
"It's a true army, so there are replica members of each part of the army," she said. "We were lucky enough to get a general."