A look at Qin Shihuangs Secret Tomb

Emperor Qin Shihuang, was born during the late Eastern Zhou dynasty from 770-256 BC, to a father who was the prince of the state of Qin, one of the many warring states of the period. When Qin Shihuang, as he later became known, took over power, he soon proved himself as a successful reformer, as well as warrior. By 221 BC, he had defeated all the other states and set himself up as the Emperor of a unified China. During this time he ruled by tyranny, but also did a lot of good for the country. Unfortunately, he would only live until 210 BC, when he died of mercury poisoning while trying to discover the secret of immortality and the Qin dynasty itself fell in 206 BC. 

Despite the relatively short time in power as Emperor of the whole of China, Qin Shihuang is considered one of the most powerful men in Chinese history. When he died, his importance was proved by the time and dedication that was put into designing his tomb and its surrounding complex, which consisted of dozens of caverns built underground to contain all the things that he would need in the afterlife. However, rather than bury his armies, servants and anyone else who served him alongside the Emperor, clay reproductions were made. When Chinese farmers discovered the first Terracotta Warriors near Xian in 1974, they were examples of these clay reproductions. 

As LiveScience.com writer Clara Moskowitz explains, since then, archaeologists have been unearthing the warriors and approximately 2,000 have been discovered so far. However, experts believe there may be another 6,000 to be unearthed. As well as that, Qin Shihuang’s central tomb where Qin Shihuang lies in state has still not been excavated. Although experts would love to discover the secrets that the tomb contains, nobody has so far dared to enter. 

This is for a number of reasons. One is out of respect for such a revered character from Chinese history. Another is that surrounding the tomb is an underground moat of mercury and, until scientists discover a way for archaeologists to enter the tomb without being poisoned, there is no choice but to leave the tomb as it is. Ironically, the Emperor died because of mercury poisoning. A final reason is that opening up the tomb could cause irreparable damage to the contents.

As Kristin Romey, curatorial consultant for the Terracotta Warrior exhibition at New York City’s Discovery Times Square explains, leaving the tomb for now until such a time that science will allow safe access for archaeologists and security of the tomb’s contents, is the best move that the Chinese government could make. However, she believes that in the near future, scientists may be able to send robotic cameras into the tomb to see what is in there.

The eyes of the world have been on China as the Terracotta Warriors have been unearthed over the past forty years. When the time comes to discover what is in the Emperor’s unopened tomb, excitement will be immense. Interested parties can but hope that it happens in their lifetime.