Terracotta warriors tear down British Museum

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The British Museum started the delicate task of unpacking the vanguard of the largest consignment of China's terracotta army ever to leave its shores in preparation for its blockbuster exhibition The First Emperor, which opens on Sept 13.

More than two dozen huge crates carrying the fragile, 2,000-year-old figures were delayed for two days in Beijing because they would not fit into the holds of two cargo planes chartered for the job.

When the 20 figures - a dozen warriors plus assorted musicians, acrobats and court officials - and their five horses eventually arrived, they would not fit through the doors of the museum's famous Round Reading Room, which is being used for an exhibition for the first time.

The main door frame was removed and the horses, weighing 360kg each, had to be unpacked outside, in the Great Court, in the middle of Monday night and gently carried into the reading room.

"It has been a bit scary. You don't want any breakages," said Hiromi Kinoshita, the assistant curator of the exhibition. "Everything is fine and we are all very relieved."

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