|The fabled tomb of Qin Shihuang might look like this. |
(from China Cultural Heritage)
Booby traps and diabolical machines are awesome.
So it goes without saying that ancient, booby-trapped tombs filled with treasure and diabolical machines are absolutely, mind-numbingly awesomely awesome!
Such is the tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang (秦始皇 Qín Shǐ huáng).
In 1974, in rural Shaanxi Province, a group of farmers who were digging a well stumbled across one of the greatest archaeological finds in history.
No, it was not the double-penetration sex toy that someone threw down an 80-meter well that villagers thought was a type of rare mushroom.
It was one of the now iconic terracotta soldiers, that number in the thousands, silently guarding the tomb of Qin Shihuang, one of the most venerated figures in Chinese history.
Since that discovery, other underground chambers have been unearthed, containing terracotta versions of warriors, horses, acrobats and every other type of person who would have been part of the imperial entourage. However, the main burial chamber eluded discovery, even though it was pretty clear where it was.
|Si-Ma Qian wrote the book |
on the best tomb ever
The main source of knowledge about the tomb (and most other ancient Chinese history) comes from the "Records of the Grand Historian" (史记, Shǐ jì). It was written by Si-Ma Qian (司马迁 Sīmǎ Qiān), in around 100 BCE, approximately a hundred years after Qin Shihuang's death. Here is an excerpt from that momemtous tome:
Translation: When the First Emperor ascended the throne, the digging and preparation at Mount Li began. After he unified his empire, he sent 700,000 people to work. They dug down deep to underground springs, pouring copper to place the outer casing of the coffin.
Palaces and viewing towers housing a hundred officials were built and filled with treasures and rare artefacts. Workmen were instructed to make automatic crossbows primed to shoot at intruders. Mercury was used to create a hundred rivers and the ocean, and set to flow mechanically. Above, the heaven is depicted, below, the geographical features of the land. Candles were made of "mermaid"'s fat whose light would not extinguish for a long time.
The Second Emperor said: "It is inappropriate for the wives of the late emperor who have no sons to be free", ordered that they be put to death, and many died. After the burial, it was suggested that it would be a serious breach if the craftsmen who constructed the tomb and knew of its secrets were to divulge those secrets. Therefore after the funeral ceremonies had completed, the inner passages and doorways were blocked, and the exit sealed, immediately trapping the workers and craftsmen inside. None could escape. Vegetations were then planted on the tomb mound such that it resembled a hill.
If you didn't catch all that, here are the bullet points:
- The underground palace is filled with rare and strange treasures (see my post on two of them!)
- There are traps with crossbows set to kill intruders who dare enter the tomb
- The tomb floor is a scale model of the country, complete with geographical features, and rivers of mercury that flow via some mysterious mechanical system
- An ancient star map is painted on the ceiling
- Candles made from mermaid fat illuminate the necropolis (Ooo-kay)
- The entire complex is filled with the corpses of doomed craftsmen and concubines, who will most likely re-animate and be very pissed off.
|Lara Croft has wet dreams |
about this tomb
Another notable discovery was that there were only two "tomb passageways," (墓
|The critically endangered |
In any case, the idea was probably to have a bunch of long-burning candles in order to deplete the tomb of oxygen and better preserve the contents.
Unfortunately there are no plans to excavate the tomb, since China does not feel confident that it can extract and preserve the contents of the tomb right now. One archaeologist said it would be at least 50 more years until the tomb was explored.
Until then, we'll just have to imagine the depths of insanity that await those first explorers...