More than 10,000 visitors to an exhibition of terracotta warriors in Hamburg are to be offered refunds after organizers admitted the figures on display were fake.
The truth came to light when officials from Xian, home of the 2,000-year-old clay army, said they were unaware that they had lent any figures to Germany and that those on display at Hamburg's Museum of Ethnology could not possibly be real as the originals were elsewhere.
Chinese experts are on their way to the city to examine the "Power in Death" exhibition, which consists of eight warrior figures, two horses and 60 smaller artifacts including bronze vessels, weapons and tools. German detectives have launched their own investigation.
A spokesman for the Leipzig exhibition firm Center of Chinese Arts and Culture (CCAC), which arranged the show, reluctantly admitted on German TV that the figures were copies.
But spokesman Yolna Grimm was keen to stress the figures' similarity to the originals.
"First of all, one has to say that the material clay was also used in those days. Then one can say that these figures are the same size as those in Xian, but in any case they are not originals," Grimm said.
He said the figures had been obtained from public authorities, institutes and businesses in China.
The company also organized a show of terracotta warriors in Leipzig two years ago, but visitors to that show were explicitly told that they were viewing copies.
Wulf Kopke, director of the Museum of Ethnology, said he had agreed to the exhibition, which began on Nov. 25, on the understanding that the exhibits were genuine and he had been assured that was the case.
"The CCAC presented us with certificates of authenticity, but not documentation proving how they had been transported," he said.
Some question whether the museum was involved.
"The fact that the warriors came to the museum in the dead of night adds to the sense that deception was at play," Die Welt newspaper said.
Grimm said that he had never claimed the figures were original.
Authorities in Xian said the only authorized exhibition of the terracotta soldiers was the "First Emperor" exhibition at the British Museum in London, China's biggest ever overseas loan of the figures.
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