EMPEROR QIN SHIHUANG AND THE QIN DYNASTY (221-206 B.C.)
Emperor Qin Shihuang Emperor Qin Shi Huang (Qin Shihuang) is arguably the greatest leader in Chinese history. Sometimes called the "Chinese Caesar," he unified China, gave China its name (in China Qin is pronounced as Chin as well as Qin), built large sections of the Great Wall of China, and was China's first bonafide emperor. He was buried in the world's largest tomb in Xian not far from the famous terra cotta army that was created to honor him and protect him in the afterlife.
Qin was a military adventurer who unified China by conquering and subsuming the six warring states. His achievements came at great human costs though. He imposed absolute order by executing anyone suspected of disloyalty. Thousands were killed in his military campaigns, in his attacks against intellectuals, and among the labor gangs that built the Great Wall and other structures.
Among Emperor Qin’s greatest admirers was Mao Zedong. When Mao was a young he wrote, "I considered the emperor as well as most officials to be honest, good and clever men." Summing up the Communist Party line on Emperor Qin, Chinese historian and archeologist Yuan Zhongyi told National Geographic, "Qin Shi Huang gave impetus to all Chinese history. He did some bad things, yes; but he did more good than bad." The modern party line in Mao is similar.
Websites and Resources
Good Websites and Sources: Qin Dynasty Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Emperor Qin Wikipedia Wikipedia ; First Emperor Qin mdln.hws.edu ; Books and things Royalty.nu : Xian : Wikipedia Wikipedia government site Xian China Map Guide China Map Guide ; China Map Guide Film: The First Emperor (known in China as The Assassin ) by Chen Kaige was made about Emperor Qin's life with $20 million budget and is regarded as over-produced and boring. Not only that Gong Li looks fat.
Terra-cotta Army of Emperor Qin Wikipedia Wikipedia ; UNESCO World Heritage Site : (click 1001wonders.org at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site Emperor Qin's Tomb: National Geographic UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site
Links in this Website: IMPERIAL CHINA factsanddetails.com ; CHINESE DYNASTIES Factsanddetails.com/China ; COURT LIFE AND EMPERORS Factsanddetails.com/China ; MANDARINS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; EUNUCHS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; SHANG DYNASTY (2200-1700 B.C.) AND XIA DYNASTY Factsanddetails.com/China ; ZHOU (CHOU) DYNASTY (1100-221 B.C.) Factsanddetails.com/China ; EMPEROR QIN AND THE QIN DYNASTY (221-206 B.C.) Factsanddetails.com/China ; HAN DYNASTY (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) Factsanddetails.com/China ; TANG DYNASTY (A.D. 690-907) Factsanddetails.com/China ; THEMES IN CHINESE HISTORY Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE FIRSTS--GUNPOWDER, MACHINES, FOODS AND CHAIRS Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE FIRSTS--PAPER, MONEY, ASTRONOMY, CLOCKS Factsanddetails.com/China ; GREAT WALL OF CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; XIAN AND SHAANXI PROVINCE factsanddetails.com/china
Good Websites and Sources on Early Chinese History: 1) Ancient China Life ancientchinalife.com ; 2) Ancient China for School Kids elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; 3) Oriental Style ourorient.com ; 4) Chinese Text Project chinese.dsturgeon.net ; 5) Minnesota State University site mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory ; 6) ChinaVoc.com ChinaVoc.com ; 7) Early Medieval China Journal languages.ufl.edu/EMC ; 8) History of China history-of-china.com ; 9) U.S.C. Education usc.edu/libraries/archives Books: Cambridge History of Ancient China edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy (1999, Cambridge University Press); The Culture and Civilization of China, a massive, multi-volume series, (Yale University Press); Mysteries of Ancient China: New Discoveries from the Early Dynasties by Jessica Rawson (British Museum, 1996)
Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) Brooklyn College site academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge chinaknowledge.de ; 5) China History Forum chinahistoryforum.com ; 6) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; 7 ) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia
Emperor Qin and the Creation of China
Much of what came to constitute China Proper was unified for the first time in 221 B.C. In that year the western frontier state of Qin, the most aggressive of the Warring States, subjugated the last of its rival states. (Qin in Wade-Giles romanization is Ch'in, from which the English China probably derived.) [Source: The Library of Congress]
Once the king of Qin consolidated his power, he took the title Shi Huangdi (First Emperor), a formulation previously reserved for deities and the mythological sage-emperors, and imposed Qin's centralized, nonhereditary bureaucratic system on his new empire. In subjugating the six other major states of Eastern Zhou, the Qin kings had relied heavily on Legalist scholar-advisers . Centralization, achieved by ruthless methods, was focused on standardizing legal codes and bureaucratic procedures, the forms of writing and coinage, and the pattern of thought and scholarship. To silence criticism of imperial rule, the kings banished or put to death many dissenting Confucian scholars and confiscated and burned their books. Qin aggrandizement was aided by frequent military expeditions pushing forward the frontiers in the north and south. [Ibid]
“To fend off barbarian intrusion, the fortification walls built by the various warring states were connected to make a 5,000- kilometer-long great wall. (What is commonly referred to as the Great Wall is actually four great walls rebuilt or extended during the Western Han, Sui, Jin, and Ming periods, rather than a single, continuous wall. At its extremities, the Great Wall reaches from northeastern Heilongjiang Province to northwestern Gansu. A number of public works projects were also undertaken to consolidate and strengthen imperial rule. These activities required enormous levies of manpower and resources, not to mention repressive measures. Revolts broke out as soon as the first Qin emperor died in 210 B.C. His dynasty was extinguished less than twenty years after its triumph. The imperial system initiated during the Qin dynasty, however, set a pattern that was developed over the next two millennia. [Ibid]
Emperor Qin's Early Life and the Conquest of China
Qin Shi Huang was born Prince Ying Zheng in 270 B.C. and began his career as an empire builder at the age of 12 or 13 when he inherited the throne of Ch'in Qin, a small kingdom in what is now the Shaanxi region. His kingdom was known for its horsemen and occupied an area regarded as a wasteland inhabited by savages by Chinese further to the east. During the first 25 years of his reign he engaged in ruthless battles that led to the annexation of six kingdoms. His reputation as an invincible warrior became so strong that the other kingdoms in China chose to lay down their arms and submit to his power rather than confront him.
Qin established his capital in Xingyang, near present-day Xian. It was said that Emperor Qin conquered other states “like a silkworn devouring a mulberry leaf.” His armies were believed to be similar to the terra-cotta armies unearthed near his tomb. In the forward position were archers who could rain arrows on their enemies from a considerable distance. Behind them were units of cavalry men, infantry and charioteers that converged on their foes weakest points. Reserve forces of chariots were positioned to move in when needed.
Emperor Qin's Rule (221-206 B.C)
During the early stages of his rule, Emperor Qin consolidated his power not only among his vassals but also among local gods that presided over the vassal states by making sacrifices to these gods and climbing all the sacred mountains. Qin's legal experts imposed harsh laws and helped expand the emperor's power by arguing that people were inherently wicked and therefore needed to be controlled by the government.
In an effort to weaken the feudal aristocracy by taking them away from their land Qin transported 120,000 wealthy families from all over his empire to his capital in Xian. In Xian, Qin showed off his power by building replicas of the palaces the aristocrats left behind (Qin built an additional 270 palaces for himself, many of which were built in accordance with the layout of the stars). In all of China Qin reportedly built 700 palaces, filled with treasures and beautiful women from all over China. Unfortunately no remains of any of these palaces have survived.
Qin recruited competent administrators and ruled his kingdom through a vast network of hierarchal administrations that were overseen by provincial units run by governors appointed from Xian. He also kept a tight rein on the military. Only generals with the Emperor's half of a split bronze tiger received permission to secure weapons and procure troops.
During teh Qin Dynasty China primarily consisted of the agricultural areas along the Yangtze River, Yellow River and middle and lower reaches of the Pearl River. Mostly Han lied in these areas. Other areas were dominated by other ethnic groups.
The remains of Qin’s palace on the Wei River south Xinyang was excavated in 2003. All Chinese schoolchildren are taught that the palace was a symbol of Emperor Qin’s greed that ultimately brought down his kingdom and led to its demise. It was said to have been the most lavish building ever produced up until that time, with a upper floor gallery capable of seating 10,000 people and a covered walkway that lead all the way to nearby mountains. Excavations by the archeologists however revealed that the palace was never built, the only thing that was completed was the base, perhaps evidence that Qin was not as greedy as he was made out to be.
Emperor Qin Unites China
Qin ruled the whole of China for little more than a decade but in that time he unified a kingdom in a way that had never been accomplished before. He codified laws, standardized weights, currency and measurements, and mass produced weapons with blast furnaces. He also abolished serfdom, which meant that for the first time Chinese could give themselves surnames.
Qin also initiated a system of writing Chinese characters so the language could be understood all over China. In the 3rd century B.C., people in China spoke eight languages and countless dialects. The establishment of a unified writing system around 200 B.C. did as much as anything to unify China.
Emperor Qin and Public Works
Qin launched a number of public works programs that included building a network of roads that fanned in out in all directions from the capital of Xian and constructing a network of canals that grew into greatest inland water communication system in the world. He even fixed the length for carriage axles so the wheels of carts would fit into the ruts of the roads.
Emperor Qin conquered what is now Sichuan and oversaw the construction of a mountain road between Xian and present-day Chengdu. A third of its length is said to have been constructed on a five-foot wide wooden balcony supported on wooden brackets driven into the sides of cliffs. Under Qin, 6,000 kilometers of roads were built, including 13-meter-wide highways with a central lane reserved for the Emperor and his family.
China experienced great upheaval as it switched from a feudal to a bureaucratic system. Under Emperor Qin, the state owned everything and peasants had to give up 50 percent of their harvest in taxes, compared to 3 percent later under the Han emperors. Emperor Qin financed many of his projects with the sale of surplus grain grown in fields irrigated by the Min River and Zheng Guo Canal.
Emperor Qin and the Great Wall of China
Early Great Wall Emperor Qin is credited with building the Great Wall of China by joining together a series of scattered fortifications, walls and ramparts that had been erected earlier in northern China and then building more walls and structures on a scale and at a rate that far exceeded anything that took place before.
Beginning in 221 B.C., walls first built between 770 and 450 B.C. by small independent, often warring, kingdoms were linked together and reinforced under orders from Emperor Qin. Made mostly from compacted earth and rubble, the walls were extended by some estimates to roughly 1,500 miles. The 180 million cubic meters of material used now lies at core of many sections of the wall.
Hundreds of thousands of workers took part in the project and perhaps tens of thousands of them died. Some were slaves, convicts and peasants conscripted to build the wall. Many were political prisoners who were sentenced to ten years of hard labor. By the time work was completed under Qin the wall was also known as "the longest cemetery in the world."
There are many stories about the building of the Great Wall and Emperor Qin. According to one Meng, the husband of a beautiful woman named Wan, was put to work on the Great Wall for having a view that differed from that of Emperor Qin. When Wan went to look for Meng in the winter to bring him some warm clothes, she discovered he had died from exhaustion. She looked so distraught on hearing the news that the Great Wall took sympathy in her and collapsed to reveal her husbands bones. After giving him a descent burial she leaped into the sea, killing herself.
The main threat in the early years of the Great Wall came from the Hu, a horse-riding nomadic people from Central Asia. They were mentioned in the Warring States period (303-221 B.C.) and the Qin dynasty (221-207 B.C.). They periodically raided China and the easily skirted the wall.
Emperor Qin's Brutality
An official from the rival Wei state wrote in 266 B.C. that Qing "has a heart of a tiger or wolf" and "knows nothing about traditional mores, proper relations, and virtuous conduct."
Emperor Qin's rule was also characterized by intolerance and a harsh legal system. All books were burned except those that praised the emperors (one reason why historical records before Qin are scarce).
People were decapitated for a long list of crimes including the possession of pornography and the failure of a concubine to produce a boy. Lesser crimes were punished with chopped off hands and nose amputations. A man who forced a woman to be his wife had his left foot chopped off. People who committed particularly heinous crimes were slowly chopped in half to prolong their agony.
Under Qin, scholars were executed for "entertaining criticism inside their stomachs." At least 460 Confucian scholars were put to death. Some were buried alive, and others were buried up to their necks and then decapitated with an ax. One man was even sawed in half lengthwise. Emperor Qin did all this in an attempt to wipe out the past and make way for the new order, an idea that was resurrected by Mao during the Cultural Revolution.
Robert N. Bellah, one of the world’s foremost sociologists of religion and author of “Religion in Human Evolution,” notes the parallels between Mao and Qin Shihuangdi, a follower of the Legalist philosophy, which taught that only harsh punishments could keep people in line and provide effective government. The Qin emperor silenced criticism, burned books and buried scholars alive, while Mao, who admired the emperor, once boasted that he had caused the death of more scholars than Qin Shihuangdi. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times December 28, 2011]
Qin Shihuangdi’s short-lived reign proved that tyranny doesn’t work, Mr. Bellah writes in “Religion in Human Evolution.” “Somehow a moral basis of rule was necessary after all,” he wrote. What, then, might China’s “moral basis” look like, as the country looks to the future as an increasingly important member of the world community? Mr. Bellah offered the traditional Chinese concepts of tian, or heaven; li, manners or rituals; and yi, justice, as some building blocks of morality.
Emperor Qin and the Fountain of Youth
In his later years Emperor Qin became obsessed with finding "the elixir of immortality” and seeking other ways to circumvent death. In Imperial China it was thought that people could become immortal by climbing the right mountains and consuming elixirs made with the things like mercury, arsenic, jade, gold, special fungi, wild mushrooms and other herbs. The cult of immortality was linked with Taoism.
Emperor Qin alienated his subjects and spent a large portion of his kingdom's wealth in his pursuit of the elixir of immortality and was taken advantage of by many charlatans who promised to find it. In addition, he went to great lengths to avoid foods and drinks that made him belch and fart because it was widely believed at the time that these and other bodily functions robbed people of their vital life energy qi, hastening death. Qin also had a 28-mile pathway constructed from his palace to a spike-shaped peak where it was believed immortals ascended to heaven.
According to one story, one of Qin's ministers, Cheng On Kee, found the "herb of immortality" growing in abundance in the White Cloud Hills near Canton. After eating some he was surprised that the rest had disappeared. Afraid of returning to Emperor Qin empty handed, the minister leaped off a cliff and, because he had eaten the herb, was snatched by a crane and taken to heaven.
Emperor Qin sent a mariner named Hsu Fu to search the Pacific for the "drug of immortality." One his second attempt he failed to return. Some have speculated he may have made it to America but never made it back. Adventurer Tim Severin tried to duplicate the voyage with an ocean going raft, made of Vietnamese bamboo, rigging sails and hand-woven rattan ropes. He too never made it: a succession of storms waterlogged the bamboo and Severin and his crew had to be rescued. Other emperors were equally obsessed with immortality. Two hundred years after Emperor Qin another emperor spent what some said was the equivalent of the Manhattan Project on the development of a pill of immortality. [National Geographic Geographica, April 1994].
In another tale, one alchemist made it back and reported that the herb or immortality could be found on an island guarded by a giant fish. According to this story the Emperor decided to seek the herb himself. He managed to kill the giant fish with an arrow he fired from a crossbow but before he could claim his prize he died of a fatal disease.
Some scholars have theorized that the tale is based on the reality that Qin simply was very sick and sent emissaries to find medicines that could heal him.
Death of Emperor Qin
In the last years of his life, Emperor Qin became paranoid and changed his sleeping quarters every night after he was nearly slain by a man who delivered the head of bitter enemy.
In 206 B.C., Qin Shi Huang died at the age of 49, after an 11 year reign, while on a tour of China. When he died only four people knew about his death because of concerns over chaos, murder and war breaking out in a fight for the succession to his throne. On the trip back to Xian, the smell of Emperor Qin’s dead body was masked by smelly fish.
Emperor Qin built a massive tomb for himself and a terra cotta army to guard it. Jessica Rawson, an expert on Emperor Qin at the British Museum, told the Daily Yomiuri, “He saw himself not just as the ruler of the world but as the ruler of the universe. And he saw himself as a cosmic figure, and that is perhaps not unusual in early Chinese emperors—they all believed they ruled with the mandate of heaven. But in a sense he saw himself almost as a deity, alongside the great cosmic spirits.”
Tomb of Emperor Qin
Emperor Qin's Tomb lies about a mile from his famous terra-cotta army. Reportedly built by as many as 700,000 workers over a 37 year period, the tomb is covered by a 260-foot-high mound with a square 1,500-x-1,700-foot base. To this day it remains undisturbed by archeologists and appears to have been undisturbed by looters. What is inside its regarded as one of great mysteries of archeology.
The tomb plus the pits with the 10,000 terra cotta soldiers is recognized by Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest tomb. It measures 7,129 feet by 3,195 feet and 2,247 feet by 1,896 feet. The entire tomb complex, including the terra-cotta army, extends over an area of 22 square miles. It is arguably the greatest afterlife palace ever built. The only things that rank with it are the great pyramids in Egypt.
Under the mound is a giant pit, covering 820,000 square feet, that was dug in terraces to a depth of more than 100 feet. The subterranean palace at the bottom of the pit is roughly 200 by 525 feet, the size of more than 3˝ football fields. Surveys indicate that the tomb itself has a circular inner wall with four gates and a circumference of 2,500 meters, and an outer wall with a circumference of 6,000 meters—measurements that correlate with Ming-era accounts of the tomb. The outer wall reportedly was 23 feet thick but little of it remains today.
Inside the Tomb of Emperor Qin
Construction of Emperor Qin's tomb began soon after he became emperor at age 13 and grew bigger and more grandiose as he became more powerful. According to a 1st century B.C. historian chronicled in Ming-era records, the tomb contains a throne room, a copper dome, models of pavilions and palaces filled with gold, gemstones and other treasures, sacred stone tablets, copper coffins, inscribed soul towers, prayer temples, and a relief map of China with a miniature ocean and models of Yangtze and Yellow rivers filled with flowing mercury.
The Emperor is said to have been dressed in jade and gold with pearls in his mouth, with his coffin floating on mercury. Placed around the Emperor's body were vessels with precious stones and relics. The floor was inlaid with gold and silver ducks. The ceiling of the copper dome featured a starry sky of pearls and gems, and constellations made from candles made of whale oil, which burn longer than normal wax. To keep intruders out, the tomb was protected by crossbow booby-traps that shot anybody who tried to enter. The entire sanctuary has a circumference of nearly two miles.
So their secrets wouldn't be revealed, the craftsmen, architects and designers who made the tomb were reportedly buried inside the tomb along with court women who couldn't conceive children. When the Emperor was buried the men that carried him in were sealed in with him by a jade gate to ensure that no one knew how to penetrate the intricate tomb.
Exploration of the Tomb of Emperor Qin
Exploratory excavations near the tomb in the late 1990s and early 2000s unearthed China's earliest life-size statues with realistic bodies. The most interesting is a statue of a fat man, perhaps an entertainer, with a pot belly and protruding butt, described as an "artful blend of fat and muscle." Archaeologists also found armor made of tea-bag-size plates of limestone tied together with bronze wire and a 467-pound bronze cauldron, the largest ever found at a Qin site, terra-cotta acrobats, and an armored vest made of polished stone. [Source: Peter Hessler, National Geographic, October 2001]
The foundation of two massive rectangular walls encircling the tomb area and a 20-meter-high chamber have been found. Tests have also revealed unusually high measurements of mercury, up to 100 times higher than normal, suggetsing that the stories of mercury rivers and seas might he true.
Requests to excavate the tomb have been repeatedly turned down by the Chinese government. It claims the money and technology isn’t available for such an important endeavor. Some archeologists agree, saying that if the job is going to be done it has to done right. Some archeologists think that it is likely the tomb has been looted, in all likelihood not long after Emperor Qin’s death and the collapse of his empire. Others disagree, saying surveys indicate the main structures are intact and if anyone has entered they would have been poisoned by mercury and the mercury would have evaporated and would be undetectable today.
Terra Cotta Army of Emperor Qin
The terra-cotta Army of Emperor Qin consists of over 10,000 life-size figures found in three massive pits with ramps used for putting the soldiers in their places. Most of the figures are armed warriors, meant to accompany to Emperor Qin to the after-life and protect him in heaven from his enemies.
The Chinese believe that a person takes to heaven whatever he is buried with. Emperor Qin no doubt made many enemies in his long, ruthless career. He may have been worried that these enemies might gang up against him in the afterlife, which explains why he wanted to have such a large force to protect him.
Much of the work on the terra cotta army was done while Emperor Qin was still alive. In 206 B.C., four years after his death, the burial vaults containing the terra-cotta soldiers were burned and vandalized by peasants, who stole the real crossbows, spears, arrows and pikes carried by the statues and used them in a rebellion against Emperor Qin's descendants.
In 1974, the terra-cotta soldiers were discovered by a local man digging a well. Archaeologists were stunned. Unlike Emperor Qin's tomb there was no written records of the terra-cotta army. When archaeologists arrived, they discovered some terra-cotta heads in the home of an old woman who had placed the heads on an altar and worshiped them as gods.
For Sun Shengan, the hundreds of life-size terra-cotta warriors guarding the tomb of Qin Shihuangdi, the emperor who unified China in 221 B.C., are impressive, but sad. “Look carefully at their faces, and you will see each is different,” Mr. Sun, a former government employee now working as a private guide, told the New York Times while showing visitors around. Yet, “not a single one looks happy. Perhaps because they were too oppressed,” he said, nodding meaningfully. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times, December 28, 2011]
The terra-cotta soldiers are amazingly life-like and detailed. Each one has an individual face, and its own hairstyle and facial expressions. Some look savage; some look serene and composed; others look bold and self-assured; a few look like they are about ready to crack a smile. A name, possibly from artist or maybe from soldier, is stamped on the neck of every soldier. Some scholars believe each one is a facsimile of a real soldier in Qin's army.
From what scholars can ascertain the hollow bodies and arms of the soldiers were most likely made from loops of clay pressed together with a paddle (fingerprints and paddle marks have been found on the soldiers). The figures were dried with a low-heat fire in a kiln. Coal was then added to raise the temperatures to 1800°F. The statues baked for several days until they turn red. About 10 percent of soldiers produced in modern workshop fail because of the difficulty in controlling the temperature. After they cool, successfully-made statues produce a metallic sound when tapped. Defective ones produce a hollow thud.
The heads and hands were cast in molds and added to the bodies after they were fired. The clothing and armor details were also added later by craftsmen, who also added a half inch of clay to the heads, which were reworked to give their faces and hairstyles their individual character. The soldiers were then painted. Only a few of the figures contain original pigments, which were made from minerals mixed with a binders such as egg whites or animal blood. Most have lost their colors to erosion, water and time.
In addition to soldiers there are stern-looking terra cotta bureaucrats to run the administration as well as acrobats and musicians to entertain the Emperor in the afterlife. Terra cotta was most likely chosen for the afterlife because flesh and wood rots. Earlier rulers had their servants, concubines and soldiers--not clay copies of them--buried alive with them.
Ranks of Terra-Cotta Soldiers
In the general area of the pits with the terra-cotta soldiers and the tomb, archaeologists have found the remains of a palace, secondary pits containing horse stables, bronze chariots, a cemetery for prison laborers who built the mausoleum, the skeletons of horses and exotic animals, and seven human skeletons that may be Emperor Qin’s children.
Pit 1 is filled with over 40 war chariots and 6,000 life-size warriors organized in rank. The terra-cotta figures, mostly infantrymen, are organized into 300-meter-long rows, the same way that Emperor Qin's honor guard used to line up before they set off on a military campaign. There are five rows of warriors (standing four abreast) and six rows of chariots, each pulled by four horses and accompanied by 15 soldiers. Among the soldiers are two "generals." The figures are 5˝ to 6 feet tall. Officers are always taller than ordinary soldiers.
The soldiers weigh around 330 pounds. Most of them originally carried swords, spears and crossbows. The terra-cotta horses are magnificent creatures: strong yet graceful. They look alert and ready to do battle. Their ears are propped forward, their tails are short and knotted and their jawlines are bold and powerful. They are slightly less than six feet tall, 7 feet long and weigh 440 pounds. Gold, jade, bamboo and bone artifacts, linen, silk, pottery utensils, bronze objects, swords and iron farm tools were unearthed beside the warriors and chariots.
Pit 2 contains 900 terra-cotta figures, including archers, cavalry troops, charioteers, infantrymen, 356 chariot horses, 116 saddled horses, and 89 war chariots. The terra-cotta figures are arranged in the L-shaped pit like real soldiers in a real battle. In the forward position are standing and kneeling archers. Behind them are calvary units and charioteers and infantry organized in four abreast units. Reserve chariots are off to one side. Among the soldiers are two "generals."
Unearthed with the terra-cotta soldiers are two large painted bronze chariots. Weighing 2,200 pounds each, the chariots each have two wheels, four horses and a driver. They are made completely of bronze and are about half the size of real chariots. Produced to carry the dead to the afterlife, the chariots were made using a number of advanced technologies: casting welding, riveting, casing, chain-making, fastener-making and metal painting.
After Emperor Qin
The Qin dynasty lasted only five years after Emperor Qin's death. His children were murdered in a palace intrigue not long after he died. The emperor that followed Qin was also murdered and so was the one that followed him. Many believe that most of Emperor’s Qin’s children were executed by Hu Hai, the son who succeeded the first emperor after Qin.
In his deathbed Qin is said to have decreed that his eldest son, Ying Fusi, should inherit his throne. Qin’s powerful and ambitious main counselor Zhao Gao was disappointed by the decision. He had hoped that a weaker heir would be named so he could rule behind the scenes. Zhao is thought to have been behind the delayed announcement of Qin death so he could have time to scheme his way into a behind-the-scene role by having power transferred to Yung Hubai, Qin’s younger, weaker son. In the end Zhao was unable to maintain order. Qin’s kingdom descended into civil war and Zhao was killed.
Qin's second son lost his life in what the Communists later called "The first peasant insurrection in Chinese history" in which peasants in 206 B.C. armed themselves with crossbows, spears, arrows and pikes taken from 6,000 terra-cotta soldiers.
Seventeen graves with the remains of decapitated bodies have been found near the tomb of Emperor Qin. Some have suggested they may belong to Emperor’s Qin’s children.
Robbing the Graves of Qin Shi Huangdi’s Ancestors
In November 2010, Tom Peck wrote in The Independent, “Nine people have been arrested in China after grave robbers targeted the tombs of the ancestors of the country's first Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The intrusion was discovered on 8 October, when a routine patrol by guards from the Cultural Relics Bureau discovered traces of new earth on top of a mud seal that blocks the entrance to the tombs at the ancient capital of Xi'an, where China's earliest leaders are buried. The bureau keeps watch over the graves, which archaeologists lack the resources to excavate properly. [Source: Tom Peck, The Independent, November 26, 2010]
“Hacksaws and mobile phone covers were also found nearby. Police were called after another patrol 12 days later found walkie-talkies near the entrance. They found a hole measuring 70 cm by 50 cm opening into a 36-meter-long tunnel in which had been left disposable gloves, ropes and plastic pipes, apparently used as rudimentary breathing apparatus.” [Ibid]
“Video cameras lowered into the hole revealed the coffins of the ancient Chinese royals had been smashed open. The nine suspects arrested by police confessed to using dynamite to blast the tunnel into the tomb. They said they encountered evidence that it had been looted in the past and were concerned the roof would collapse. Only when their boss raised their wages did they agree to continue.” [Ibid]
“The grave robbers were so well-equipped they had laid electricity cables along the tunnel and installed fans to pump air into the tomb. Local newspapers said a single relic had been recovered, but gave no details. Other reports said nothing had been found. The suspects denied taking anything from the tomb where King Zhuangxiang and Lady Zhao, his concubine, are believed to have been buried. News of the robbery at such a major tomb was deemed so serious that there was a ban on any reporting while officials carried out their investigations.” [Ibid]
Zhuangxiang ruled one of many small states and died in 246BC at the age of 35 after a three-year reign. His son was Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. The incident has led to calls for the graves to be officially excavated, removing the temptation for grave robbers. In the past several years treasures have been stolen from ancient burial sites that are poorly guarded. The theft has also intensified calls for the group of tombs, discovered in 1986 and covering 24 square kilometers, to be resealed.
The majority of the estimated 8,000 six-foot statues of famous Terracotta Army remain buried. China.
Image Sources: 1) Empeor Qin, Ohio State University; 2) Qin Dynasty map, St Martin edu. 3) Unify Charactors, Ohio State University; 4) Early Great Wall, Ohio State University; 5) Qian mausoleum, CNTO; 6) Terra Cotta Army, Ohio State University; 7) Terra cotta soldiers, Louis Perrochon http://www.perrochon.com/photo/china/
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated August 2012