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The Chinese Emperorsí Eternal Armies

Many cultures have sent their dead to the afterlife with the necessities of daily endeavor and the trappings of honor. Dishes, food, thrones, and barges have been excavated over the years. Pets, wives, concubines, and servants have gone to serve their masters in the next life as they served in this one. Death was perceived as a prolongation of life, and an Emperorís mausoleum was his afterlife palace, mirroring the magnificence of his palatial life on earth. Lavishly provisioned with silks, musical instruments, servants, food and drink, tombs held everything for a well-lived life. As an old Chinese saying instructs, "treat death as life." It would be natural then, for war-plagued emperors to make their tombs battle ready.

In China, sometime during the late 1920s, a peasant unearthed a life-sized terracotta sculpture of a warrior, while digging a well. Once the entire figure was uncovered, the water filling the well suddenly drained away. This was regarded as an evil omen and the statue was reburied. Then in 1974, peasants sinking a well for the Yanzhai Commune uncovered part of a pit of life-sized terracotta soldiers and horses. They had discovered a portion of the burial retinue of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shihuang.

Qin Shihuang

The first Emperor of China and founder of the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shihuang (259-210 B.C.), was known as a conqueror, an enlightened leader, a merciless tyrant, a builder, and a destroyer. During his 29 years of rule, he united the country after five centuries of strife and transformed the land into what we now call China. He instituted a centralized government that lasted until 1911, standardized currency, set up a code of law, a uniform system of weights and measures, and standardized script. He built a network of roads leading from his capital city of Xianyang, and linked protective walls built to deter raiding nomads into 3,000 kilometers of the Great Wall that now stretches for 6,000 kilometers.

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