Emperor Qin and the Terracotta Army

By Finnean M.

Emperor Qin became the first emperor of China after he conquered the many warring states and brought them into China. He started building the Great Wall of China to keep out the Mongols. The country was also named after him.

Emperor Qin wanted to be immortal more than anything. All of his life he searched for the legendary water that would make him immortal. When his time was drawing short, he decided he wanted a giant burial tomb built for him. After the tomb was completed, Emperor Qin killed all his daughters, his wives, and 700,000 people that had built the tomb so no one would know about it.

Over 2,000 years later, in 1974, two farmers were digging a well. “I’m hot,” said the first farmer. “I want a drink.” “No,” said the second farmer. “We shall soon hit water.”  “What’s this?” said the first farmers, pulling up what looked like a piece of old pottery from the hole. “Oh, just a piece of pottery,” said the second farmer. “But this looks like an arm,” said the first farmer, pulling another piece from the hole. They founds lots of heads, arms, legs, and other body parts.

News spread quickly throughout the city. Soon the hole got deep enough and dropped off into a cavern filled with thousands of human sized clay figures. Archaeologists came from throughout China and the world. They soon found figures of full-sized horses hauling full-sized chariots. After more exploration, they found other animals. There were halls and passages full of these wonders. With even more exploration, they resolved that this must be Emperor Qin’s legendary burial grounds.

One hundred years after Emperor Qin died, Sima Qian, China’s great historian, wrote about Qin’s legendary underground burial chamber and tomb. Sima Qian described rivers full of mercury inside of the tomb. He also wrote about traps such as crossbows set to shoot if someone entered the tomb. This is how the archaeologists knew they had found Emperor Qin’s tomb.

The archaeologists have found 8,000 clay warriors. They found three pits of warriors, but they have only uncovered two of them. There were eight original molds for the faces of the warriors, but each face was individually constructed to be unique. From recent studies, archaeologists have found traces of paint on some of the warriors, and they now suspect that each warrior was painted with numerous colors. They have also found bits and pieces of cross-bows, spears, and other weapons that the warriors were holding.

The weapons were very technologically advanced for the times. Europe did not have this technology for 1,500 years.

The burial ground covers 38 square miles. Archaeologists have not uncovered most of it and they have not even explored the tomb. They think if the artifacts from the tomb were exposed to air, they would disintegrate. They also have found mercury around the tomb.  Archaeologists will keep exploring for years to come.


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