Ancient Terra Cotta Warriors Forge New Ties Between Nevada, China

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The guest of honor spent the first moments of the ceremony under wraps.

Once unveiled the life sized statue of an ancient Chinese general gazed impassively on all assembled and the words that followed.

The General, or actually his original, was made more than two thousand years ago to command a terra cotta army of more than 7,000 soldiers to watch over China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in the after life.

The army lay hidden for centuries near the city of X'ian was only found 1974 by a farmer digging a well.

Since then about a thousand soldiers have been unearthed and restored.

It is one of the world's great historic treasures, but the craftsmen who made them, each with unique facial features, never counted on modern day air pollution or the impact of two million curious tourists visiting them each year.

Combined they have been destroying what two millennia couldn't. As these warriors and their chariot horses are unearthed they begin to deteriorate.

That's where the Desert Research Institute and its experience in air quality science comes in. DRI scientists Dr. Judy Chow and Dr. John Watson, have been working with Chinese counterparts to protect the General's Army.

It's special project for the DRI scientists and one that couldn't be more important to the Chinese people.

"They believe this is one of the most ancient treasures that really should be preserved," says Dr.Chow. "It's one of a kind."

Most of the Army and the Emperor's Tomb itself remain buried while work continues to monitor air quality and discover ways to protect them from exposure to the modern world.

Today even tourists are kept at a distance while scientists bridge cultural divides and build relationships that may not only preserve the ancient past, but address 21st century problems.

"When you work together on a project and when you have to spend a lot of extra time together to get the job done. That's when you get the relationship that really become long lasting friendships as well as professional collaborations," says Dr. Watson.

The General or his modern replica now greets visitors a half a world away from his previous posting, a visual reminder of those ties and the opportunity they represent.

"I hope people will people will come in and take a look at him if they want to," says Dr. Watson. "But let's not look at this as past accomplishment. Let's look at this as an opportunity for future work with China."

The General is a gift from DRI Trustee Tom Gallagher and his wife, Mary Kay. They also brought back a replica of one of the horses. It will be installed at DRI offices in Las Vegas