The Legacy Beneath Xianyang City of Qin Dynasty
East of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum, near Xi’an(西安Xī’ān), the capital of Shaanxi Province, is a densely-forested hill. A great green hillock, yes; otherwise unremarkable, it may seem to the casual observateur. Yet beneath that hill is buried Ying Zheng, the first Chinese emperor of the Qin Dynasty(秦朝Qíncháo) (221-206 B.C.).
The Qin state reached its zenith under the reign of Ying Zheng. Thinking that the entire world was in his possession, the ambitious emperor led a life of abundance. And he hoped to retain that grandeur in the afterlife. Thus he ordered the construction of a magnificent mausoleum. According to historical records, the construction involved 720,000 laborers and lasted 39 years. The number of workers engaged was almost eight times as many as that involved in the 31-year construction of the renowned Pyramid of Khufu.
Ying Zheng(嬴政Yíngzhèng) wanted his mausoleum to be the largest, tallest and most intricate of its day; an embodiment of his autarchy and ambition. The mausoleum finally reached 115 meters in height and covered 56.25 square kilometers. Notable among its extravagances are the 600 real horses buried in the mausoleum stable. An army comprised of terracotta warriors(兵马俑bīngmăyŏng) and horses is a demonstration of imperial sovereignty, and a reflection of the emperor’s ambition to protect his reign in the afterworld.
Beneath the hill, the core of the mausoleum is an underground palace holding coffins and burial objects. Descriptions of the underground palace are found in many existing historical records. Sima Qian, a great historian in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), offered in his book Historical Records an insight on the mausoleum: “The tomb chamber, deep underground, is made of cast bronze, and therein is the coffin. Moreover, booby traps with automatic-shooting arrows were installed to deter would-be tomb robbers, and mercury was pumped in mechanically to create images of flowing rivers and oceans. The ceiling was shaped into a sky with the sun, moon and stars represented by inlaid pearls and gems, and the ground is an accumulation of rivers, mountains and cities. The underground palace was brightly lit by whale oil lamps for eternity.”
A high level of mercury was detected under the mausoleum, which is distributed in geometrical patterns that span a total area of 12,000 square meters. This finding backs up what Sima Qian recorded in his book. But, we cannot gain a definite image of the underground palace until it is excavated.
To date, more than 600 relic sites have been discovered around the mausoleum, of which the most imposing is the terracotta warriors and horses. Surprisingly, no mention of these has been found in any historical records.
At 1 p.m. on June 13, 2009, about 37 kilometers east of Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province, the third excavation commenced at Pit No.1 of the Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses. The last dig took place 24 years before. The Experts and laymen alike wonder: What other great marvels will be revealed by the “Eighth Wonder of the World” about it?