Debate has reopened in China as to whether the tomb of China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang should be excavated. Zhang Wuchang, a respected economist, says that “the cultural enlightenment from excavating the tomb of Qin Shi Huang will surpass the pyramids of Egypt,” adding that an added benefit would be that tourism revenues to the area would also double.
The burial place of Qin Shi Huang is currently best known as the imperial tomb that accompanies the famed Terracotta Warriors, and which lies beneath one of the ‘Chinese Pyramids‘. However, there may be far more of note hidden beneath this structure, with historical records from less than a century after the emperor’s death telling of a map of the heavens with stars represented by pearls, and on the floor of the tomb a map of China with the rivers and seas represented by flowing mercury. The latter at least may well be true, as surveys have shown high levels of mercury in the area.
As befits a king with his own pyramid, it is said that Qin Shi Huang was obsessed with finding the key to immortality, which led him to embark on numerous quests and ‘trials’ (including sex with multiple partners – though abstaining from climax, and also the drinking of mercury – before its ill effects were known). Many western archaeologists also think that the lack of excavation of Qin Shi Huang’s tomb is based not so much in concerns about preservation, but in Chinese traditions and warnings about disturbing the dead…especially one so powerful in life. Certainly, if it ever happens, this will be one of the great archaeological excavations of this century.
If this topic interests you, I thoroughly recommend the video I’ve posted today, The First Emperor – a great documentary.