Thursday, March 4, 2010

BBC Learning - The Immortal Emperor

Much like Egyptian pharaohs, Shi Huangdi's tomb provided for all his needs and replicated his style of life on earth, complete with many amenities: various precious stones and metals; objects d'art; a small, scaled model of his capital city, Chang`an; a small river system in which mercury was mechanically circulated, showing the Yangtze, Yellow and all other major rivers of China; and a planetarium with constellations made of pearls.The burial chamber was dug out of an aquifer which required all of the interior surface to be waterproofed with a thin layer of bronze.

When the first terra-cotta soldiers were found in 1974, the first archaeologist dispatched to the scene was Yuan Zhongyi, now leader of the excavations and director of the on-site museum. He originally thought his work would take about one week. He was shocked when he later found the largest chamber of the army, with nearly 6,400 men, horses, and chariots. Unearthing the first chamber took three years. The second and third chambers were found soon after digging in the first concluded.

When the Chinese made the first announcements about the statues in 1974, many archaeologists, intellectuals and especially tourists wanted to visit the site. The Chinese were surprisingly open about visitation (although they do all the digging) and even lead tours to watch the actual excavation as it takes place. Originally covered with a shabbily constructed tin roof, but soon after, the Chinese enclosed the entire area in a reinforced steel building which can only be described as an airplane hanger, completely sealed off from the elements. They also built adjacent to the site a museum, housing many of the valuables recovered from around all of the tomb site and welcoming over two million visitors each year. You can still tour the dig site and the fully excavated first chamber, if you wish.

pass : calek

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