Get to know the Golden Horse of Maoling

11 April 2018 by Joe

As Liverpool prepares itself for the annual Grand National Festival, our landmark 2018 exhibition China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors at World Museum will soon receive some exciting new additions! The Golden Horse of Maoling and other items from China’s Han Dynasty go on display in the exhibition from today, Wednesday 11 April, until the end of the exhibition’s run on 28 October 2018.


This stunning gilded bronze horse is over two feet tall and is the largest ever found in China. Discovered at Maoling near the Mausoleum of Emperor Wu, the fifth ruler of the Western Han dynasty, it has been suggested that the burial pit in which the horse was found belonged to Princess Pingyang, who was the elder sister of Emperor Wu.

Fiona Philpott, Director of Exhibitions at National Museums Liverpool, said: “The horse became a symbol of power, wealth and status for the Chinese after it was domesticated around 6,000 years ago in central Europe and Asia. They were so precious to the great rulers of ancient China that they were buried with them for the afterlife. Liverpool also has a long equestrian history, playing host to the world renowned Grand National Festival since 1839, so the addition of the Golden Horse to the exhibition this week is very apt.

“The exhibition is doing extremely well, with a huge number of tickets having been sold already, but there’s still availability before the exhibition closes at the end of October, so people can experience the magic of the Terracotta Warriors and the Golden Horse of Maoling while they’re in Liverpool.”

The slender body of the Golden Horse and its muscles suggest it represents one of the finer breeds of horses Emperor Wu imported from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. These tall and beautiful horses were probably the ancestors of a number of modern breeds which are renowned for their speed, endurance and intelligence. They are famous for their shimmering coats, often golden in colour, which led them to be known as ‘golden horses’. Emperor Wu was obsessed with these strong and swift ‘heavenly horses’ and chose to be buried with them, as he believed they could help him defeat the nomadic tribes of the north and also bring him immortality.

As well as the Golden Horse, the exhibition will also welcome two new items. These include a bronze wine heater adorned with intricate patterns of the four Chinese spiritual creatures, as well as a bronze water clock, one of only five in the world. Alongside other items already on display, such as an incense burner, a bronze lamp and a mortar and pestle, these objects offer a glimpse into the everyday lives of citizens in Han Dynasty China.

They also mark an exciting addition to the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at World Museum. Spanning almost 1,000 years, this blockbuster exhibition tells the story of the formative years of the Chinese nation, from the pre-unification Qin Kings, to the rise of the Qin State and unification of China by the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang in 221 BC, followed by the legacy of his achievements in the succeeding Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD).

You can discover the Golden Horse of Maoling as well as the stars of the show, ten life-size terracotta figures, at our landmark exhibition, China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors which runs until 28 October 2018.


  1. Lavinia Whitfield says:

    So privileged to have been able to see this awe inspiring exhibition. Going to book again at least once more before it closes- so much to take in and so well arranged so that there is the time and space to enjoy it. Can’t fault the design of the whole or of each individual display. Lighting excellent, no need for the forbidden flash to be able to take pictures to be proud of. Thank you Liverpool Museums and China for allowing those of us who are unable to visit to appreciate a little of its ancient history and these wonderful treasures.

    • Joe says:

      Hi Lavinia,

      Great to hear you enjoyed the exhibition and we look forward to welcoming you again soon!

  2. Maureen Wilsker says:

    Wonderful to see this lovely work, in Liverpool.
    A great city with a great history.
    I last visited during WW2, when I was evacuated to Nth Wales and as an eight year old watched the horizon glowing red as Liverpool was bombed. My father’s friends whole family died that night. They had been brought out of London for safety.
    My foster mother was a very kind woman from Birkenhead.
    So good to see peaceful cooperation through art.

  3. Ken Upton says:


    My friends and I loved the exhibition at the museum when we went in March, very educational, fascinating and well put together. A credit to the museum and the city. But I have to admit I was shocked and disappointed to learn that there had been ‘new additions’ to the exhibition since we’d attended. Feel like we’re missing out on them purely because we went as soon as we did. Was this some sort of marketing ploy by the museum to add to the exhibition part way through in order to get more people to pay to enter again?

    Would have been nice to see the final exhibition, as this is what it seems to be now, with the new additions.


    • Joe says:

      Hi Ken,

      The objects were not available to display until now, so we are very lucky to be able to include them in the exhibition. The Golden Horse and two other Han Dynasty objects are on display as additions to the collection of more than 180 spectacular artefacts already on display, including the stars of the show, ten life-size terracotta figures. We were unable to share news of new objects in advance as the information about their display was not available until it had been confirmed.

      Best wishes,

  4. Judi McCafferty says:

    We visited last week. What a wonderful display. Particularly impressed with the golden horse, and the large jade disc. These are artefacts never seen outside China, how lucky are we to see them?
    The staff on hand were so friendly, and helped those with sorting out phones that were on “flash”
    The Egyptian section was brilliant too!

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