Giant terracotta warrior becomes face of controversy in Xi'an

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A giant terracotta warrior that can display people's faces to passers-by has been removed from a prime location in Xi'an, the capital of northwestern China's Shaanxi province, after it sparked an online controversy.

The terracotta warrior was initially placed in front of the Bell Tower - one of Xi'an's most iconic scenic spots - on Jan 25 as one of the city's Spring Festival decorations. A sign reading "Welcome to Beilin district" was placed at the bottom of the sculpture.

Following comments from netizens describing its changing face as "weird" and "scary", the sculpture was moved on Tuesday to a less prominent location - an animation industrial park in the district.

The Communist Party of China publicity department in Beilin district described the warrior as a 3D universal sculpture with a head made from ultra bright LED screens. At the back of the sculpture is a photo booth capable of taking 3D pictures. Once someone has their photo taken, they can see the image of their face displayed on the terracotta warrior's giant head.

The interactive device, which uses 3D modeling technology, takes about 10 seconds to put the image of a person's face on the head of the terracotta warrior, with each image displayed for three minutes.

The publicity department said the sculpture presented the city's cultural heritage to the public.

Jiao Yang, an official with the district's housing and urban development bureau, said that through the use of the terracotta warrior - the cultural relic most representative of Shaanxi - and the interactive light display, people could instantly turn into a Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) warrior.

Jiao said the interactive sculpture is one of more than 250 free art displays or activities being staged in public spaces in Xi'an for the Lunar New Year, and that it offers locals and tourists a different experience.

However, the giant terracotta warrior generated heated discussion on the internet, with some netizens being highly critical.

One micro-blogger said what was supposed to be a good idea had turned into something shocking because it distorted people's faces.

Another said historical relics in public places should not be spoofed when there are so many other ways to show people the city's culture and history.

It is not the first time the use of terracotta warriors in Xi'an has attracted online attention.

In December, a micro-blogger checked into a terracotta warrior-themed hotel in the city and filmed himself struggling to sleep while being "watched over" by rows of "creepy" warrior replicas placed as decorations in the kitchen, bedroom, and even bathroom of his suite.

Ancient terracotta warriors from the Qin Dynasty have guarded the tomb of Qin Shihuang, China's first emperor for more than 2,000 years. It is a form of funerary art, and the more than 7,000 terracotta warriors, each with their own individual face, were buried with the emperor to protect him in the afterlife.

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