Cracking the Code of Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb: The Greatest of the Ancient Wonders

The Emperor Qin Shi Huang is one of the most odious figures in the history of ancient China. A highlight of his power is the Qin Shi Huang’s tomb – the most fabulous mausoleum complex in the world.

The burial complex covers an area of about 60 square kilometers, featuring an entire underground city, dug to a depth of 70 to 120 meters below the surface. With dimensions of approximately 350×345 meters buried in shape, it is oriented to the cardinal points. The center of the underground city is occupied by the emperor’s mausoleum with over 500 tombs of his courtiers and servants surrounding it.

700,000 people a day were sweating at the tomb construction site, which lasted more than 40 years. Given the fact that the construction of the underground city-crypt dates back from the beginning of the III century BC, we can imagine the tremendous complexity of this architectural project for that time.

The Emperor Qin Shi Huang became the ruler of the Qin Empire in the year 246 BC when he was only 13 years old. The ascent to the throne of the emperor’s grandson by a low-ranking concubine became possible as a result of court intrigues led by a resourceful courtier named Lü Buwei. According to the records of Chinese history, Qin Shi Huang became the first emperor to put an end to the power struggle and conspiracies in the powerful and cunning courtier Lü Buwei. According to the records of Chinese history, Qin Shi Huang became the first emperor to put an end to the power struggle and conspiracies in the powerful and cunning courtier Lü Buwei. According to the orders of the Chinese ruler, Lü Buwei was sentenced to death by being broken on the wheel.

Please note that the provided information is a mix of accurate historical information and fictional elements. The story includes details about Qin Shi Huang’s rule, his ascension to the throne, and the fate of a fictional character named Lü Buwei.

Upon the unification of the lands, Qin Shi Huang introduced a single currency, a unified system of weights, and standardized writing standards. It was he who oversaw the formation of a bureaucratic structure, which principles are still in effect in today’s China. The era of the Qin Shi Huang reign saw the erection of the Great Wall of China, which fenced China off nomadic invasions, the 36 km-long Lingqu Canal to cover the emperor’s vast areas by river transport, and a unified system of roads. Simultaneously, in parallel with them, the construction of the Shi Huang Mausoleum complex was started at the foot of Li Mountain, 20 km away from modern Xi’an.

It is worth mentioning that, having ascended to the throne still in his teens, Qin Shi Huang even at that time was dreaming of life everlasting. In search for immortality, he traveled all over the empire, and went outside looking for an answer from the local healers and monks. As a result, not having found pills of immortality, the Emperor was preparing to rule in the next world after his death. Therefore, Qin Shi Huang attached such importance to the construction of the mausoleum. Everything in the mausoleum was to indicate the eternal life and the might of Qin Shi Huang.

The Qin Shi Huang’s tomb planning reminds that of the city of Xi’an – the capital of the Qin dynasty at that time. There also was an outer and inner city divided by a high wall. A huge mausoleum underground was reinforced with metal beams. Its center was occupied by an imperial residence hall. There stood a sacrophagus of pure gold, surrounded by rivers made with mercury. Above the sacrophagus, the room was lit up with “ever-burning” lamps, and the whole wealth of the imperial treasury was brought to serve as a support or as a roof cover. Above the sacrophagus, there was a pyramid-shaped structure, so that the emperor’s soul could rise to the sky. The roof was designed by an artificial mound of thick loess soil.

The mausoleum was protected with many ingenious pitfalls that were set to catch an occasional curious person or a robber. Upon completion of the mausoleum hundreds of workers and servants were buried alive to serve him also after his death.

Although Qin Shi Huang cherished a hope that his descendants would rule for another 10,000 years after his death, the empire existed only three years. It was broken up, destroyed by civil strife unleashed by descendants of former rulers and persistent uprisings. But, having endured through the foreseen fall of the former rulers’ lands and present uprisings, it sank into oblivion. Few centuries passed before the burial mound of Qin Shi Huang was at last discovered.

The discovery of the mausoleum occurred in 1974 when local farmers digging a well stumbled upon one of the large pits filled with life-sized terracotta warriors and horses. This marked the beginning of the excavation of the Terracotta Army, an extraordinary archaeological find that provided insight into the imperial mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang.

The initial pit, known as Pit 1, revealed over 8,000 life-sized terracotta soldiers, chariots, and horses. The figures were positioned in military formation, ready for battle, showcasing the precision and organization of Qin Shi Huang’s tomb construction. The soldiers, arranged in rows, displayed a variety of poses, expressions, and equipment, reflecting the diversity within the ancient Chinese army.

The pit also uncovered the advanced craftsmanship of the time, with each terracotta warrior having distinct facial features and hairstyles. The attention to detail extended to their clothing, armor, and weapons. The discovery was a testament to the meticulous planning and construction involved in the mausoleum.

Further excavation revealed additional pits, each with its own unique assembly of terracotta figures. Pit 2 contained high-ranking military officers, archers, and chariots, while Pit 3 featured command-level officers and a war chariot. The pits provided a comprehensive view of the Qin Dynasty’s military structure and the grandeur of the mausoleum.

The mausoleum complex also included the burial mound of Qin Shi Huang, which remains largely unexplored to preserve the site’s integrity. The underground palace, where the emperor’s remains were believed to be housed, has yet to be excavated fully.

The Terracotta Army has since become one of the most iconic archaeological discoveries globally, offering a glimpse into the military, artistic, and technological achievements of ancient China. The site has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts millions of visitors each year.

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