The Qin dynasty (also written as Ch'in) was brief, 221 B.C. - 206 B.C, but much was accomplished during this 15-year period. It was the first dynasty whose emperor ruled over a unified China, following his defeat of seven warring states. One currency and a single system of weights and measures for the entire empire were created and a standardized Chinese written language was established. Construction of a national highway system and the Great Wall of China were begun. The name, China, even originated from the word Ch'in.
Despite all these advances, this was a very repressive and strict period of ruling. Emperor Ch'in Shi Huang, derived from Shi Huangdi meaning "first emperor," was a much-feared tyrant, who ruled with an iron fist. Ch'in Shi Huang began building his own tomb at the age of thirteen, immediately after ascending to the throne following his father's death.. This was contradictory to Confucian beliefs at the time that "a son should demonstrate respect for his father by building as impressive a memorial as possible and that a man should never plan his own funeral rites."
Ch'in Shi Huang ordered the burning of history and philosophy books, as well as the deaths of 460 Confucian scholars who had continued teaching religious principles drawn from the past. He enslaved the people and imposed enormous taxes to pay for his tomb and the Great Wall, which led to rebellion towards the end of his rule. His tomb took 11 years and 700,000 workers, but it never fully reached completion. The tomb supposedly had pearls embedded in the ceiling to represent the stars, and rivers and lakes simulated with liquid mercury. The burial chamber has not yet been opened and since the site has not been fully excavated, it remains possible that this will be the most elaborate and most unique tomb ever seen. Some consider it to be the eighth wonder of the world.
In the three main pits that surround the tomb, there have been discovered thousands of terracotta soldiers designed to guard the first emperor of a newly unified China. These figures cover a 22,000 square meter area, including an estimated 8,000 life-size pottery warriors and horses.
While digging a well at Lishan Hill in 1976, a farmer came across several large clay pieces. This led to further excavation and the first pit of terracotta soldiers was discovered. After the discovery, subsequent excavations around the area unearthed two more pits, each of which had the same basic structure but varied in size and shape. They are all 5-7 meters under the current ground level. The terracotta figures are arranged in corridors paved with brick that are divided by thick walls. These earth walls support wood roofing comprised of huge, strong rafters. Over that, layers of fiber mats cover the roof. All of this was done to protect and conceal the emperor's army.
"Pit No.1" was the first of three pits found. It is the largest, with an area of 14,260 square meters, with a rectangular shape. This pit houses the main force of the army, totaling more than 6,000. Starting at the front, there are three rows of infantrymen at 68 per row, comprising a total of 204 soldiers dressed in ceremonial war robes. All of them originally held bows and crossbows that have long since decomposed. Behind these is the main body of the army, ready for battle. "Thirty chariots, each of which was drawn by four horses, armored and unarmored soldiers held weapons originally, such as spears, halberds etc., and around the outer edge, there is one row of soldiers with crossbows facing outwards to guard the sides and back of the army. Most of these unexcavated soldiers are infantry."
Twenty meters to the north and east of Pit No.1, Pit No.2 was discovered. It is an L-shaped room, covering 6,000 square meters. This pit is divided into four square sections, where archeologists unearthed 1,000 warriors, 500 horses, and 89 wooden chariots in 1976. The horses are both for pulling chariots and carrying riders....
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O 'Connor, Jane. The Emperor 's Silent Army. New York: Penguin Putnam, 2002.
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