When did humans accept their mortality and the fact that if there was afterlife, it was certainly not like this one? The Pharaohs made elaborate arrangements for their own burial, packed in all their belongings, vast riches, all worldly comforts, made sure their consorts and handmaidens were embalmed with them, and prepared for a glorious afterlife upon death! But no preparation for death was as fearful as the one made by the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang.
Qin Shi Huang’s burial palace complex was a huge walled compound with offices, halls and other structures, and with gateway entrances. To prevent the craftsmen working on the tomb from divulging its whereabouts, they were sealed alive inside! Historians tell us that construction began in 276 BC and more than 700,000 workers were involved in the building the structure. The tomb contained gold utensils, and other wonderful objects, including this exquisite chariot with horses.
The terracotta army of Qin Shi Huang was discovered in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, by local farmers who were drilling a well. The archaeological dig is ongoing and 4 pits have been uncovered. The pits are enclosed in airplane hangar sized cooled buildings and as one enters the building, the vista is breathtaking!
For the emperor these soldiers were real, arranged with military precision, and buried with him so that they could guard him in the next life.
The largest of the pits is Pit 1, and is estimated to have over 6000 soldiers, 50 wooden chariots with horses, of which less than half have been excavated and are in the process of being restored.
The warriors were made piecemeal in workshops and assembled in situ. They were cast from 6-8 different molds and then given individual features. Some of the prototypes were the archer, the common foot soldier, the charioteer, and the high official!
The finished statues were decorated with various colors of paint, and had wooden bows, arrows, and other implements. Many artifacts from the site are showcased at the Shaanxi museum, and the army and museum are the highlight of any trip to Xi’an. As I was leaving I wondered when we mortals became aware of the fact that you cannot take it away with you, no matter how rich or powerful you may be!
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