I headed up M Street feeling a bit like an archaeologist being ushered into a dig site long after the locals had cleared out.

With the White House a few short blocks away, I strode up to the National Geographic Museum and promptly entered the wrong door. After finding the right entrance, I found myself face to face with a warrior and his horse – both almost 2,000 years old.

Along with about 30 bloggers and photographers from across DC, I was invited to a sneak peek of National Geographic’s new exhibit, “Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor.” I’ve been telling you about this for a few months and I really could not wait to get in and take a look.

The exhibit finally opened today but yesterday evening I got the chance to be slightly more than an armchair adventurer. I also got to take pictures which you will not, so if you go please leave the camera in your bag.

Featuring the largest number of terra cotta figures ever to travel to the United States for a single exhibition, the collection showcases 15 terra cotta figures from the tomb of China’s first emperor. It also highlights 100 sets of artifacts including weapons, stone armor, coins and jade jewelry among many other items.

Stone armor & detail

Considered by China to be Grade I artifacts, the collection sent to the United States is literally priceless. My notes from the sneak peek contain words like “remarkable”, “astounding” and “beautifully curated exhibit.” The setting is serene and organized as though one where walking through a pavilion or elegant home.

The exhibition will run through March 31, 2010. Hours are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., with extended hours on Wednesdays until 9:00 p.m.Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children 2-12 and seniors. Kids under 2 are free. For more information, visit www.warriorsdc.org or call (202) 857-7700.

As a special benefit, the PIMCO Foundation, an exhibition sponsor, is partnering with the museum to offer 200 free tickets every Wednesday evening.

I want to thank the National Geographic staff for hosting this special event and for a remarkable show. Here are some of my favorite shots from last evening:

For information about this remarkable and rare show, please visit its site at www.warriorsdc.org.