John Nike's Chinese terracotta army
August 07, 2012
As far as holiday souvenirs go, John Nike’s collection of terracotta warriors takes some beating.
The Bracknell businessman and his wife Sue visited China last year to celebrate her 70th birthday and were overwhelmed by the sight of the thousands of soldiers, chariots and horses that are still being excavated at the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Xi’an province.
Mr Nike describes feeling a ‘sense of aura’ as he gazed down and the idea of creating his own exhibition at his home in Binfield was born.
And last weekend he opened his collection to the public in aid of the air ambulance.
He says: “We stood on a high platform and looked into a cavern – there were so many in there.
“There was a sense of aura, of being. It was awe-inspiring.”
Mr Nike was permitted into the excavation area to see the archaeologists at work on the warriors that formed the burial art of the first Emperor of China in 200BC.
He said: “My initial purchase was the emperor but as I walked around the thought grew in me that I would like to have a selection.”
Now the emperor stands imperiously in front of infantrymen, generals, a bowman and a horse in a converted milking parlour at Mr Nike’s Murrell Hill Lane home.
Each of the 14 burnished, lacquered figures weighs 200kg and each has a different facial expression, as do the thousands in China first discovered by farmers in the 1970s.
Mr Nike said: “I say ‘good morning gentlemen’ when I go in and they stand there in silence, in the gloom. They never say a word but I know they are listening.
“To come in in the early morning, there is a silence. It is like going into a graveyard when you are a child, there is a feeling that overwhelms you.”