What is afterlife? Is it the mystery of heaven and hell? a world of consciousness, or, simply nothingness? Whatever it might be, the concept of reincarnation always seems to haunt people and surrounds mysteries of everlasting afterlife curiosities. Though many people believe in the authenticity of an afterlife, a lot does not seem to fathom the concept. The religious attributes and whether their religion believes so or not highly influence the people’s ideologies.

But for the rulers of yesteryears, the concept of afterlife preparation was very common, especially in early Ancient Mesopotamian and Chinese kingdoms. The Terracotta Warriors of China is one such example of the above statement. Built by Emperor Qin Shihuang, the sole purpose of this army was to accompany him to the afterlife.

The Terracotta Warriors of China was first discovered in 1974 by local farmers in Lintong County, China.

It was first built by Emperor Qin Shihuang (259-210 B.C.E.) in 248 BC. The large underground chambers surrounding the tomb of the Emperor consisted of 8,000 clay soldiers, accompanying him to death.

Qin Shihuang first came to power at the young age of 13 years and achieved a lot during his reign of 36 years, but his ultimate quest was to be prepared for the afterlife. Though he conquered several regions, his biggest wish was to conquer death itself. He was the first Emperor of China after uniting seven warring kingdoms. His reign saw many accomplishments like a universal weighing system, a single standardized writing script for the whole of China, and laid the first foundation for the great wall of China. He even introduced a standard currency and connected cities and states with roads and canals.

Being ruthless and intelligent, he is also credited as a military genius who knew how to conquer armies and rule upon them.

China's Terracotta Army

To be immortal, he recruited several alchemists from around the world to bring or make him an antidote, serum, or portion to gain immortality. However, none could satisfy his quest. But this was all his side plans, his initial plan was to build an army that could accompany him to the afterlife. To make it happen, from the very first year of his reign, he started building a secret underground necropolis, including artifacts, museums, palaces, but most importantly an army. The Terracotta army still stands intact in the precise battle formation. The whole army is divided into several compartments, the first contains the main force that comprises an army of 6000 soldiers, the second chamber had more than 130 war chariots and 600 horses, while the third is housed for high command.

The nearby chambers also house several clay statues of artists, musicians, cooks, government officials, servants, and acrobats. There is also a chamber dedicated to exotic animals, suggesting that the emperor might want to continue his rule even in the afterlife. Less than a mile away, lies the Emperor’s tomb that is surrounded by huge monuments, rich and precious gemstones that represent the sun, moon, and stars. The Tomb also consists of rivers of mercury and bronze making it even more magnificent and splendid. Local says that the Emperor believe that mercury has life-giving properties, and thus instructed the workers to include the mercury rivers in his tomb.

All these sculptors are built using red clay known as terracotta or baked earth. The force of over 720,000 workers was ordered by the emperor to build these statues. This massive workforce included artists and sculptures to construct the best army possible. Each soldier had a unique face, hairstyle, uniform, and weapons according to their ranks- an incredible feat of craftsmanship. The distinct features of these statues make the army even more celebrated and recognized. They were initially painted with different colors, but when the site was located in the 20th century, its exposure to air fainted the color and only raw red sculptures remain today. For the same reason, the second chamber including the tomb of the emperor is not opened and will be investigated once they find a way to inspect without damaging the ancient masterpiece.

One astonishing fact also states that the emperor feared that artists might disclose the location of the precious jewels inside the chambers post his death, thus he made sure that the middle gate was shut and the outer gate closed to imprison all the artisans and laborers so that no one came out.

China's Terracotta Army

The Greatest achievement of Emperor Qin Shihuang

Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of the Emperor isn’t the terracotta warriors but in fact the unification of China. He was born in the Warring States period, a turmoil time in China’s history, thus he aspired to form his own dynasty. He founded the Qin dynasty and unified seven warring states into a singular China and took up the name Qin Shihuang which meant the First Emperor.

He built a state that follow similar traits such as language, currency, and bureaucratic regulations. He ordered the Heshibi to be made into the Imperial Seal, known as the “Heirloom Seal of the Realm”. He made sure that even after his death, his dynasty thrive and accomplish even more prospects than ever before. That is the very reason why the Qin dynasty prospered over the next two millennia.

He also laid the very foundation of The Great Wall of China, the most incredible piece of China’s history. The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications that were built across the northern borders of ancient China as protection against various nomadic groups.

Emperor Qin Shihuang isn’t the only one in history to be fascinated with the concept of the afterlife but perhaps he is the only one who believed that his mere curiosity couldn’t be exchanged with the lives of real soldiers. For this very reason, instead of the live army, he built statues. Although the kingdoms of Ancient Egypt, Northern America, Japan’s Kofun period, Mexico, and West Africa had rituals of burying live soldiers alongside the dead king. As ruthless as he is believed, Emperor Qin Shihuang sure knew how to rule a dynasty.

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