Last week I had the privilege of seeing an awe-inspiring exhibit of some of China’s terracotta warriors at the Cincinnati Museum of Art. Nine of the 8000 terracotta figures, along with hundreds of other ancient objects, were on display in a special exhibit. The story of these amazing works is that some pieces of terracotta were found by two Chinese farmers digging a well a well in 1974. These figures were buried with the emperor in 210-209 BCE to protect him in the afterlife. 8000 figures of cavalrymen, infantrymen and archers were eventually discovered in 3 pits around the emperor’s burial site.
Terracotta Servant photograph by Christy Wesselman (C) Christy Wesselman
I admired the archers and cavalrymen but was particularly drawn to this little dude pictured above. He was a stable servant and was discovered in an area surrounded by the skeletal remains of horses. It is believed he was buried to care for the horses in the afterlife. He is the only figure which appears kneeling on both knees. His simple clothing and his posture indicate his lower station as a servant. But I liked this little guy – a lot.
We had horses when I was younger so I could relate to the idea of providing care for them even in the afterlife. Somebody’s got to feed and water the horses! It always seemed a chore to muck stalls, water and feed the horses. I didn’t like the job of scooping up the horse manure much as a youngster. But some of my best memories are of the sounds and smells of horses in the barn, the crunching and munching and the sweet musty smell of horse. If I were a terra-cotta figure, I’d like to think I would have been caring for the horses.
Little Dude was my favorite (beside the terra-cotta horse figure!) He gave me much to think about as I wandered through the exhibit, snapping photos, reading the history of these amazing creations and pondering their age beyond my comprehension. These figures were sculpted the 200’s BCE. The immense span of time, the priceless value of the figures and the knowledge of a burgeoning non-Western culture was amazing.
Little Dude prompted a call to reflect, ponder, pray and meditate long after I left the exhibit. Am I a servant in the way I am supposed to be? If so, how am I living that call to serve others? How do I feel called to serve others? What gifts do I really have?
What gifts do I wish I had? How does envying gifts I don’t have prevent me from fully serving others?
What prevents me from serving others as I think and feel I should be? Pride? Fear? Shame? Guilt? What do I resist about being a servant?
What qualities of servant do I admire in prophets and teachers of my faith? What are ways in which I can be more like those prophets and teachers? Do I serve with love and compassion? Do I serve with humility, meekness, and gentleness?
Do I engage in contemplative practices like meditation, contemplation, or scripture reading like the prophets and teachers of my faith? Do I cultivate spiritual habits of unconditional compassionate love, solitude when needed, and maintaining supportive relationships within a sangha or spiritual community? Do I express unconditional compassionate love to others, walk in grace and forgiveness, and encourage others?
I hope these questions act as prompts for your own reflection. You may want to write in a journal, write poetry, paint a picture, make a collage, walk with nature or take photographs in response to these questions and more. I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights and what questions arose in you. Feel free to share your creative projects via email or post for all to see. If you would like to talk further, please contact me.