The Mysterious Tomb Of Qin Shi Huang

“They say in the grave there is peace, and peace and the grave are one and the same.” —Georg Büchner, Dantons Tod

In A Nutshell

Over 2,000 years ago, Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor to rule a unified China. He was responsible for several vast construction projects built on the blood of his people, including the Great Wall of China. Determined to be remembered, he had a huge necropolis built in his honor, his tomb guarded by thousands of terracotta warrior statues. Legend has it that the tomb is heavily booby-trapped and run through with “100 rivers made with mercury.” Perhaps because of the danger, Qin Shi Huang’s tomb remains unopened to this day.

The Whole Bushel

Qin Shi Huang was the ancient king of the State of Qin and later Emperor of a unified China. History indicates that he was a brutal dictator, turning his people into slave laborers and forcing them to build huge structures like the Great Wall of China. Perhaps even more astounding than the Wall was the immense, palatial tomb he had built in his honor, which was surrounded by thousands of clay soldiers, each painstakingly unique. Despite the elaboration of the mausoleum he’d built for himself, he fought a desperate battle to avoid moving in. Huang was obsessed with immortality and finding an “elixir of life.” Unfortunately, one of the elixirs his alchemists prescribed was mercury. He died in 2010 B.C., aged just 39, likely succumbing to his own homeopathic remedies.

Most of what we know about Huang’s tomb comes from a historian named Sima Quan, who wrote about a century later. His writings claim that hundreds of thousands of workers toiled over the mausoleum, a veritable city of the dead replete with “rare utensils and wonderful objects,” palaces, crossbow booby traps, and 100 rivers of mercury. Strangely enough, Sima Quan never mentioned the vast terracotta army, which was only accidentally discovered in 1974. This may be due to the emperor’s nasty habit of killing off workers in the name of preserving his secrets.

Although its location is public knowledge, the government of China has not yet elected to open Huang’s tomb, likely for several reasons. One is because opening it could potentially destroy invaluable artifacts. There is also significant danger to any archaeologists on hand. In addition to untold traps meant to deter grave robbers, probes that have been sent into the tomb have detected incredibly high levels of mercury. There is no telling what secrets lie inside the grave of China’s first emperor or when we may gaze upon his face.

Show Me The Proof

The Secret Tomb of China’s 1st Emperor: Will We Ever See Inside?
Archaeologists Think Hidden Imperial Tomb May Be Too Deadly to Explore
Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor

  • JM Cruz

    He died 49, not 39.

  • Ste Chez

    Also he died 210 BC not 2010 BC

  • Arjan Hut

    Send in the drones.

  • Hadeskabir

    Weird, I just watched a show about this on History Channel a few hours ago. What a coincidence. I want to go Lara Croft on that tomb.

    • I want to go tomb raider on Lara Croft.

      • Hadeskabir

        Lara Croft’s tomb was raided so many times that it hasn’t got anymore treasures to offer.

  • It’s Sima Qian, not Sima Quan.

    • Hadeskabir

      This comment is better than the article. Very good!

  • Chester

    Id bet money that all those booby traps no longer function.

    • Bill Miller

      I take the bet. You go first.

      And with chinese letters the Jehova-Iehova game will be a wee bit more interesting, don’t you think so?

      • Chester

        easy there indy

  • Daniel L

    His name is not “Huang”.

    In Chinese mythology, ancient legendary emperors were called Di, such as Huang Di or Yan Di. Huang Di in particular is very famous as the earliest emperor from about 3000 BC, and also regarded as the mythological ancestor of all Chinese (or all East Asians). There are two characters for Huang with imperial connotations, one means ‘yellow’, another something like ‘august’ (the season). These got confused together and both probably refer to same idea, with the later character eventually coming to mean ‘Imperial’ in later dynasties. This is very similar to how the Roman Emperor Augustus’ reputation lead to other emperors using ‘august’ in their titles and it gaining an imperial connotation. “Huang Di”, is therefore a reference to the original Yellow Emperor, and by extension any kind of ‘Emperor’.

    Original name of this guy was Yin Zheng. Dynasties in China tend to be named not after the family (Yin) but the feudal region which they governed before coming to the throne (Qin). “Qin Shi” means “first of Qin” or initiator of Qin dynasty. At the time, China had been ruled by kings for thousands of years, so after finally uniting all of the kingdoms, it was only naturally for him to want a more powerful title with mythological basis. “Qin Shi Huang Di” therefore means something like “Great Emperor who initiated the Qin Dynasty”. Future monarchs would then be called “Qin Shi Er(2) Di”, “Qin Shi San(3) Di” etc, but it didn’t last very long. Only in subsequent dynasties did they use unique monarch names instead of numbers.

    Btw, if you go to his tomb near the terracotta warriors, and climb your way through bushes you can get to the top of his grave mound. They have holes dug everywhere on the side of the mound so they can take some kind of scientific measurement of what it looks like inside. Actually they have a pretty good idea of the layout of his burial room etc since there is another museum nearby that has an epic underground recreation of it. Rivers of mercury is real.

  • VoiD

    Person who is obsessed with immortality and a plain murderer… Ironically died at a young age.

  • Valkyrie

    Sima Qian could be the biggest hustler the world has ever known, maybe just maybe he himself has been down into the tomb and robbed the whole thing. What better story than the one of a booby trapped crypt to ensure that no one else will find out the tomb is in fact empty already 😉

  • Rodney Jean

    Hello can anyone tell me two reasons why qin shi huang killed his servant

  • Goffer

    Ok Nice. I like to go Egypt and want to see Mummies. I believe Chinese are also good in making these types.

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