Ni hao! I hear you guys are suffering because it’s extremely cold! Sorry! It’s summer here in China and the heat! Lord! Too much! (Yes, I know I complained about the winter cold when I arrived in February! Humans!
So hard to please!) Anyway, let’s get down to business, shall we? Since the beginning of time, almost every religion, cult and civilisation under the sun has believed in life after death.
Some believed that if you live your life on earth well, you would come back to life as a more superior being and vice versa, while others believe in heaven and hell.
Well, today I will tell you the story of one person who believed rather strongly in this concept and proceeded to do what I believe is one of the most vain things ever. And that person is Qin (pronounced Chin) Shi Huang, China’s first emperor and the man after whom the East Asian nation is named.
A lot of credit is given to Qin, as he was the first man to unite the various former little, independent states that formed China as we know it today. It is also under his rule that the spectacle that is the Great Wall of China as we know it today, started being linked with the former little states to become the long and magnificent structure that it is today.
However, Qin’s story is much deeper and more spectacular (not to mention vain) than that! Qin became emperor at only 13 and enjoyed the trappings of this immense power so much, that he immediately rolled out an elaborate plan to ensure that his kingdom remained intact forever and even in the afterlife!
His first task was to establish a suitable burial place where a man of his stature would be laid to rest upon death. After much searching, he was able to identify a big parcel of land in present-day Lintong District in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province.
The region was selected due to its serene nature, rivers, as well as its abundance in precious gold and jade stones (See? I told you he was vain!) and in 246 BC, work on his future burial place began, with more than 700,000 people involved in the project.
Qin’s plan was to ensure that everything he had on earth, he would have in the afterlife. From palaces, to staff to wealth. Today, Emperor Qin’s mausoleum is one of the UN World Heritage Sites, with more than five million people visiting every year.
One of the most prolific features about Emperor Qin’s mausoleum is what is today known as the Museum of The Terracotta Army Warriors. Naturally, as emperor, Qin Shi Huang enjoyed maximum security with a large army of warriors that fought and protected him, as well as conquering new territories at his behest.
So it was only natural that he would want to ensure that the status quo remained. It was here that a whole army of 8,000 life-sized pottery figures representing soldiers and more than 10,000 pieces of bronze weapons were constructed to secure the emperor after he died.
Today, the museum is divided into three pits where the figures were excavated, after being found accidentally by local farmers who were digging a well in the area in 1974. The first pit is 14,000 square metres in size and holds a total of 6,000 terracotta (pottery, earthenware) figures representing the army.
The army figures are arranged in battle formation and in rank, right from the infantrymen to the charioteers. 4,000 of these figures remain underground with only 2,000 terracotta figures visible.
These figures face all directions; North, South, East and West to ensure that the Emperor comes to absolutely no harm from any corner while he rules in the afterlife. In the second pit you find 1,300 terracotta figures of more infantrymen, cavalrymen, archers and charioteers. 89 wooden chariots were also discovered in this pit.
The third and last pit is seen to be the guard post in this earthen army of the afterlife. It is divided into three parts: A Prayer room, a meeting room and a small passage for wooden chariots. This pit is also special because it contained real weapons.
After all, how can an earthenware army protect the emperor without weapons? Some more figures have been excavated in the area, with various bronze figures also being found, as well as more pottery figures of public officials, acrobats and stone armour suits being found.
Various burial sites for horses and other labourers buried with the emperor have also been found. So, how’s that for elaborate burial preparations?
I guess if you have that kind of time and money on your hands, you too could start preparing your own, grand burial site and who knows, maybe hundreds of years after you’re gone, UNESCO will classify it as a World Heritage Site and my children’s children, along with millions of others will in the future pay a pretty penny to witness the spectacle that is your mausoleum!