Over two thousand years ago, the First Emperor of China ascended the throne. His visions for the newly united empire appear almost limitless. Ongoing assaults from the northern tribes prompted Qin Shi Huang to unite fragmented walls into a single fortification for his border lands. The world would ultimately know this construction as the Great Wall of China. Qin Shi Huang launched many other significant works, including improving the canal system so vital to his empire.
Colorful legends surround the august ruler. If these tales hold truth, the First Emperor was preoccupied with attaining immortality. Word reached him that islands of immortality existed in the East China Sea. If fortune was with him, young men and women might be able to procure an elixir of eternal life. Thousands were sent on this critical mission. They never returned.
Knowing that the possibility of death remained very real, Qin Shi Huang set about constructing an elaborate tomb. According to the history records of Sima Qian, the Emperor constructed a vast underground realm, including flowing rivers of quicksilver and hundreds of palaces. The tomb has never been opened to the public eye. Of note, the mercury levels in the burial mound, as measured through bore holes, have been confirmed at very high levels.
The Emperor took great pains to defend his tomb. In 1974, Chinese farmers started digging a well in Shaanxi province. What they unearthed is one of the most significant archaeological discoveries ever made. In time, over eight thousand terra cotta warriors were found, marching in columns in multiple pits. Thousands of artifacts have been located, including bronze chariots and horses, and numerous weapons, such as crossbows, spears and battle axes. Statues of musicians and acrobats claim a place in the tomb, along with bronze birds and other favored animals.
These amazing discoveries claim a rich place in history, sparking ongoing debates about the purpose of the great terra cotta army. My upcoming fantasy novel, Arid Rider, explores this remarkable world. Enjoy!