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Warriors prepare departure

For the past few months, a number of fiberglass Asian warriors have been on prominent display around Richmond. They will soon be gone from city streets, sold to the highest bidders. On Sept.

For the past few months, a number of fiberglass Asian warriors have been on prominent display around Richmond.

They will soon be gone from city streets, sold to the highest bidders.

On Sept. 27, all 34 sculptures in the Terracotta Warriors Public Art Project, some of which have been on display in Vancouver, will be auctioned off during a gala soiree at Richmond's Continental Seafood Restaurant.

This is the largest fundraising effort put on by the British Columbia Lions Society for Children with Disabilities - raising much-needed funds to help children with disabilities in B.C., said Stephen Miller, president and CEO of the British Columbia Lions Society for Children with Disabilities.

In the past, the society focused exclusively on animals but a trip to China by Miller prompted the limited edition Terracotta Warrior sculptures.

"They represent an important piece of history, added Miller. "I happened to be going to China last summer and I saw the Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China."

Back in 220 BCE, the emperor commissioned artisans from all over the country to create more than 7,000 life-sized terracotta warriors, horse and chariots to protect him in the after-life.

"It was one of the largest art projects ever produced in the world," Miller said, adding they are considered an Eighth Wonder of the World.

"The whole concept of the terracotta warriors ended up consolidating the country. Yet, the one thing the emperor couldn't control in life was life after death, therefore he created a life after death for himself and created the warrior army for a true life after death."

Local farmers discovered the buried treasure in 1974, almost 2,200 years later.

"I felt that doing a limited public art project that celebrated multiculturalism, more specifically celebrating the Asian culture and its significance in our province, warranted doing this project," Miller said.

He hopes guests attending the gala event will open their wallets wide.

"The banquet and auction is designed to bring patrons and artists together to raise money for a good cause," Miller said. "Besides the artists painting a warrior, each artist has also donated a piece of art for our silent auction.

"That way, those who can't afford a warrior can purchase a beautiful piece of art work for between $100 and $1,000."

The bidding on the sculptures will start at $2,000. If past history is any indication, they could each fetch between $6,000 and $7,000. The lowest price ever paid was $2,000 and the highest $50,000.

"The buyers get to purchase a piece of history, a legacy of one of the greatest finds of our century," added Miller. "$50,000 was paid for in the Spirit Bear project, a bear called Jeannie, by a gentleman whose daughter named Jeannie died young.

"He came to me and said, I will bid $50,000 up front - the man ended up buying five bears for a total of $150,000."

Although sales of the gala have been slow so far, Miller isn't worried.

"So far, we have sold more than 200 tickets but each year we've hosted a terracotta project, we have sold out of tickets for our banquet," said Miller, adding they have 450 tickets altogether. "Two years ago, for our last project we sold 600 tickets. Every project so far has raised between $300,000 and $600,000.

"Because this is a limited edition project confined to the Lower Mainland, we hope to raise at least $100,000."

Miller wrote a book, titled Terracotta Warriors, about the creation of the project, which will be on sale during the event.

His hardcover tome will sell for $70 with all profits going to the society.

"I also wrote a book on the Orcas, Bears and Eagles projects as well," he said. "People can also buy them online at blur.com."

The Great Terracotta Warrior Banquet and Auction happens on Thursday, Sept. 27 at the Continental Seafood Restaurant, 11700 Cambie Rd. A reception begins at 5 p.m. followed by dinner and the live and silent auctions at 5: 45 p.m. Tickets are $88 per person. For more information or to RSVP, email csilas@lionsbc. ca or call 604-873-1865.

mhopkins@richmond-news.com