A Clay Army Unearthed!
In 1974, Chinese peasants digging a well ran into an amazing find -- rows and rows of clay soldiers surrounding a gravesite! Upon hearing the news, archaeologists rushed to the site to dig out more of these incredible warriors. Recently, they have uncovered 110 new terracotta warriors, and have pinpointed the location of 11 more, but are yet to excavate them.
The tomb belonged to Qin Shihuangdi, first emperor of unified China. Shihuangdi is remembered by his numerous achievements: unifying China (although it broke apart not long after his death), starting the construction of the Great Wall of China and the Ling Canal, burning all books not related to his reign, cremating/stoning scholars who dared to disagree with his decisions, and, of course, his clay army.
Why would anyone in their right mind devote so much manpower and time to building clay figures to surround their tomb?
Preparing for After-life
Qin Shihuangdi was increasingly paranoid about the looming prospect of death and worried about his journey to the afterlife. He was originally obsessed with finding the elixir for life; when that quest failed and he had accepted that death was, in fact, inevitable, he started the construction of his tomb.
Plans for the tomb included flowing rivers of mercury and other booby traps to obstruct any path criminals could take to plunder the temple. On top of that protection, Qin Shihuangdi ordered construction of the terracotta soldiers -- 8000 clay figures equipped with real bronze weapons and clay horses to stand beside him in his tomb. Each soldier has a slightly different facial expression, though the rest of the body parts were mass-produced from molds.
After his death in 215 B.C. from mercury poisoning (probably from drinking his numerous immortality elixirs), Qin Shihuangdi was laid in his tomb along with his clay guardians, ready to take on the afterlife by storm.
A Symbol Of Power
None of the warriors have been found completely intact due to the ceiling on top of the soldiers falling long before they were found; however, each piece has been discovered in excellent condition and colorfully painted. What is more incredible than the detail and uniqueness of each soldier is the fact that they were built in under two years with primitive technology two millennia ago!
Powerful people find it essential to be unique in every aspect, including the way in which they die. They cannot make the same mundane journey to the afterlife like a commoner, all by themselves. They obviously need a swarm of warriors to guard them, to show their power extends from the mortal world to the great beyond.
Qin Shihuangdi was many things: neurotic, arrogant, and definitely demanding. Yet his name is still the talk of the town, even more than two thousand years after his death. If that’s not power, I don’t know what is.