The tomb of the First Emperor, located near the west-Chinese town of Xi’an, is among the mausoleums of greatest size, most unique structure, and richest content in the world. The Terracotta Army, constituting the after-death procession of the Emperor, has earned the title of the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.
The Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 BCE – 210 BCE) was the first emperor of the Chinese feudal society. He managed to unify China, introduced a number of measures to support both the economy and cultural development. Also, he had a long wall built with a purpose to protect the country against the invasion of northern tribes. The First Emperor was also a very brutal and capricious ruler. To impose control over his people’s thinking, he resorted to burning books and burying scholars whose opinions contradicted his. In the course of his ruling, an enormous amount of money and human labour was consumed for the building of his own future tomb. The work of some 700,000 people from across the entire country was used. The total area of the funeral complex is 46 km2 and its original shape was that of a pyramid. It took 38 years to build the tomb.
The Terracotta Army of Quin Shi Huang was accidentally found by local farmers, in 1974. When digging a well, they found fragments of sculptures in uniforms. A team of archaeologists arrived at the site and, for the next few years, worked on excavations and testing drills. Up until today, about 8,000 statues of warriors and 600 horses made from terracotta, and 125 wooden chariots have been found here. The warriors are made to the smallest details; they are 1.70 – 1.90 metres tall and weigh from one to three hundred kilograms. Each of the warriors has his own facial expression and body posture. The soldiers originally had weapons, but most of them were stolen by the troops of rebelling generals when plundering the tomb. Some of the weapons, however, have been preserved and even today make the experts wonder – mainly the bronze swords which are still glistening, as if they left the factory just yesterday. Originally, all the warriors were painted, but exposure to daylight began the process of oxidation, and all the colour disappeared irretrievably.
So far, only one third of the total amount of warriors has been uncovered; the others remain buried. And so does their ruler – the Emperor Quin. Nobody has dared to open his tomb, not only because of worries about the fate of the treasures hidden inside, but also due to the legends predicting destruction to those who would try to break into the tomb.
Because of its great historical value, the First Emperor’s tomb has been included in the list of World Cultural Heritage of UNESCO.