Sunday, December 4, 2011

Emperor Qin Shi Huang and his Terra Cotta Army

      For last few years I am coming across the term 
Terra Cotta Army " frequently in many dailies and websites. It made me curious over time and I start to read about this. During my search of information the thing that I found more interesting about these terra cotta army was its founder king Qin Shi Huang and his crazy psychology about life. So ? lets jump......

             “Terra Cotta Army ", is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. It is a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210-209 BC and whose purpose was to defend him in the afterlife. The figures, dating from 3rd century BC, were discovered in 1974 by some local farmers in Lintong District, Xi'an, Shaanxi province, near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. The figures vary in height according to their roles, with the tallest being the generals. The figures include 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses. Other terracotta non-military figures such as officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians were also found while all figures are life-sized, and each has a unique face and details. The Terra Cotta Army was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

The “Terra Cotta Army " was a gigantic project of Emperor Qin Shi Huang who was well-known for his contributions to the modern state and also notorious for sacrificing the lives of thousands of laborers to fulfill his silly visionary projects.

Qin Shi Huang became the first Emperor of the state of Qin at the age of thirteen, by the time he was thirty-eight he conquered the six neighboring states to unify China for the first time. After unifying China, he and his adviser Li Si passed a series of major economic and political reforms. To synthesize seven separate states into one nation, he standardized a common script and established uniform measurement and monetary systems. For effective government, he codified a legal system and replaced hereditary rulers with a centrally appointed administrative system. To improve industrial productivity he encouraged agricultural reforms and constructed many roads. And in an effort to limit the inroads of barbarian tribes, he undertook gigantic projects, including the first version of the Great Wall of China, and and prepared for his own death by constructing a 20-square-mile (50-square-km) funerary compound, guarded by a life-sized Terracotta Army, all at the expense of numerous lives.

Beginning in 213 BC, at the instigation of Li Si and to avoid scholars' comparisons of his reign with the past, Qin Shi Huang ordered most existing books to be burned with the exception of those on astrology, agriculture, medicine, divination, and the history of the State of Qin. Owning the Book of Songs or the Classic of History was to be punished especially severely. According to the later Records of the Grand Historian, the following year Qin Shi Huang had some 460 scholars buried alive for owning the forbidden books.

Later in his life, Qin Shi Huang feared death and desperately sought the fabled elixir of life, which would supposedly allow him to live forever. He was obsessed with acquiring immortality and fell prey to many who offered him supposed elixirs.He visited Zhifu Island three times in order to achieve immortality. In one case he sent Xu Fu, a Zhifu islander, with ships carrying hundreds of young men and women in search of the mystical Penglai mountain. They were sent to find Anqi Sheng, a 1,000-year-old magician whom Qin Shi Huang had supposedly met in his travels and who had invited him to seek him there. These people never returned, perhaps because they knew that if they returned without the promised elixir, they would surely be executed. Legends claim that they reached Japan and colonized it.

Since the great emperor was afraid of death and, "evil spirits", he had workers build a series of tunnels and passage ways to each of his palaces (over 200 were owned by him), because these would keep him safe from the evil spirits, as he traveled unseen. In 211 BC a large meteor is said to have fallen in Dongjun in the lower reaches of the Yellow River. On it, an unknown person inscribed the words "The First Emperor will die and his land will be divided." When the emperor heard of this, he sent an imperial secretary to investigate this prophecy. No one would confess to the deed, so all the people living nearby were put to death. The stone was then burned and pulverized.

The emperor died during one of his tours of Eastern China, on September 10, 210 BC (Julian Calendar) at the palace in Shaqiu prefecture, about two months away by road from the capital Xianyang. Ironically, he died due to ingesting mercury pills, made by his court scientists and doctors which were meant to make Qin Shi Huang immortal. Eventually, after about two months, Li Si and the imperial court reached Xianyang, where the news of the death of the emperor was announced. His tomb was built on Li Mountain, which is only 30 kilometers away from Xi'an.

About 700,000 workers and craftsmen took part in constructing the First Emperor's mausoleum which was begun as soon as he ascended the throne. After his death all workers and childless concubines were interred with him to safeguard its secrets.

According to the historical records the tomb includes replicas of palaces and scenic towers, "rare utensils and wonderful objects". The ceiling, inlaid with pearls, representations of "the heavenly bodies", and crossbows represents the starry heavens. The floor, made of stone, forms a map of the Chinese kingdom; a hundred rivers of mercury flow across it. Though all manner of treasure is protected by deadly booby-traps, it came into light soon after 2000 years of his death.

The Qin dynasty ended soon after his death, but a unified China remained for over 2,000 years. China's name is derived from his short but seminal dynasty, Qin (pronounced Chin).

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