Qinling North Road, Lintong Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
GPS: 34.384449188502, 109.27905830463
The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is located some 30 kilometres east of the city of Xi’an, in the Chinese province of Shaanxi. It was discovered by chance in 1974 by a Chinese peasant, Yang Zhifa accompanied by two cultivators, by digging a well in a wild and isolated area. Dated from the 3rd century BC, this amazing place kept in an exceptional state despite more than 2,200 years spent underground, is one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.
The largest necropolis of imperial China (98 km²), the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor shelters two sites one kilometre apart: the tomb of the first emperor of the Qin dynasty (Qin Shi Huang) in the shape of an unexplored pyramid mound and a Terracotta Army buried in various crypts below the ground. The construction of the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, a colossal site at 35 metres depth, was ordered by Qin Shi Huang as soon as he acceded to the throne at the age of 13. In -221 he founded the first unified and centralized state of China, ending the Warring States period (Emperor Qin is also behind the construction of the Great Wall of China). In search of an eternal life, this formidable politician and military leader has only one obsession: obtain an elixir of immortality. Qin Shi Huang makes this mission a national priority and sends emissaries on expeditions to all possible places in his new empire to the East China Sea.
Emperor Qin probably died at the age of 49 in 207 BC and rests alongside a gigantic sculptural army. Modelled in yellow clay, this army is made up of thousands of soldiers dedicated to the protection of the emperor after his death: infantrymen, archers, crossbowmen, horsemen, officers, generals, chariot drivers, horses as well as acrobats, water animals and birds. It is also intended to perpetuate the reign of Qin Shi Huang in the afterlife. Measuring almost 2 meters high, each soldier presents a singular and unique aspect according to the features of his face, his hairstyle, his posture, the position of his arms, his clothes, his rank or his weapon. Fragments of the statues are still extracted today (only a quarter of the warriors would be reconstituted). According to scientists, the environment around the tomb of the emperor Qin is full of pitfalls (traps and crossbows in particular) carefully set up at the time to prevent anyone from entering the mausoleum. The tomb could itself contain mercury or toxic gases. The Chinese government is therefore cautiously waiting for new technologies to emerge to ensure that the site can be accessed without risk of damage or danger. While the excavations have only just begun, the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is far from having delivered all its secrets to archaeologists.